Are you a self-starter with an eye for detail, a passion for great customer service and unresolved hostility issues? Have I got a job for you. In our final look at the miserable set of misaligned processes and emotionally empty engagements that pass for customer experience management, it’s time we define a customer communications function once and for all.
Some companies put this group in the marketing department, probably because we are good with crayons and squishy brand stuff. Others stick them inside of customer service because they are used to being yelled at. Still others would have them hanging about with sales people since they clean up the best.
I think it belongs on its own. I think this group should be beholden to everyone, while it helps them serve their respective Daddies. Click here if you don’t recall our discussion about Daddies at work.
The first people you want to recruit are the data geeks. They can be found in your sales or marketing operations centre, or possibly in a little known corner of the finance gulag. They are the ones who are going to tackle the nasty job of pulling accurate data from your customer database, marketing automation system, billing application and sales automation platform to build a more or less coherent view of the customer base. From this you will know who has what products, who is located where, which group calls a lot, how long have they been customers, and all that, cross referenced to satisfaction scores, net revenue, lifetime value and other important metrics. Don’t skip these people or assume they are available elsewhere in the organization. If you have terrible customer communications, I suspect it is because you don’t have enough geeks and your data sucks.
The next people to hire are a few consultants. They won’t be staying long but they will do the next two really important things. One is mapping your customer journey, the other is defining your user personas. You can’t do this yourself. If you have already done this stuff, maybe get the consultant to give it a look and make sure it’s still accurate. You may even want to do some focus testing while the geeks get sorted.
If you did things right, your geeks should be finished with their segmentations at about the same time as your consultants are delivering the persona stuff.
Now it’s time to hire your communicators. They probably have some extras in marketing or in corporate communications. These are people who are good at helping other people understand stuff. They can write, they can design, they can use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. They can build and manage online communities.They understand your brand and your voice and how to make a bunch of infighting barnyard animals sound like a cathedral choir.
Did I mention it’s a good idea not to tell anyone you’re building this function? I realize it’s hard to keep such things secret, but I think you’ll find there is so much latent demand in your company for decent customer communication, that you’ll have an iPhone-ish line up on day one.
The final folks you need are your relationship managers. They are going to manage the teeming masses at your doorstep. Assign one to the product people, one or more the Customer Abuse team, perhaps someone to help the Keebler Elves a little. Maybe you only have one of these folks; the point is, you need someone to manage the priorities and make sure what you’re doing is consistent.
Now, I know this is all very well in companies with all kinds of headcount and nothing to do with them. And I know those companies don’t exist. But here’s the thing: you probably already have a bunch of people doing this work, whether they know it or not and whether they like it or not.
I would bet that if you ask all these groups who are sending out things addressed to Dear Valued Customer how many hours they are spending on customer communication, and then you add up all the hours your marketing and sales teams are spending calming people down on Facebook, and then add in the opportunity cost of the time spent on things they really shouldn’t spend time on, you will arrive at a pretty healthy number of hours.
Still want make the case? Try a pilot online community program with your neediest group. All the cool Corporate Overlords have one and I promise, if you can deflect even a few calls and escalations, you’ll have a line up of takers for other services too. If you’re really desperate, try outsourcing a few customer communication projects and see what happens. If you suck at it as badly as most companies, you’ll have a great business case in no time, plus you can justify the need to own the conversation with your customers instead of letting them talk to strangers.
Interesting Things I Found This Week
Eloqua’s Grande Guides have long been a treasure for harried marketers. Thankfully, Oracle has left them alone and you can check them out here.
BizMarketer is Elizabeth Williams
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