Give Customers the Reins When It Comes to Communications

By Heather Baldwin

So much of CRM is about capturing customer information, but once you capture that information, what do you do with it? Sure, you should use it to communicate, but which information should be going to which customers and when? Many companies don’t know, especially in light of the recent Do-Not-Call legislation. Nonetheless, outbound communications remain a vital part of a CRM strategy. Indeed, customers appreciate valuable, well-timed communications, says Chris Selland, managing director of Cambridge, MA-based Reservoir Partners. The question, of course, is: how do you know your communications are valuable and well-timed?

The answer is to let your customers tell you by allowing them to opt in, telling you what information they want to receive and when they want to receive it. “Recognize that the customer is ultimately who knows best how to communicate – when, where, how and how often. Offer options, and let the customer manage the relationship and the communications,” says Selland. “In other words, your efforts should be focused on creating Customer-Managed Relationships (CMR) and putting the customer in control of the relationship rather than the other way around.” Selland isn’t just talking about marketing, he’s talking about every way in which you reach out to customers – billing, subscription lapse notifications, delinquent payment alerts, order status updates and other reasons for communicating, in addition to news about new products or services in which customers have expressed an interest.

Still, handing over the reins to customers is a scary proposition for many companies because their data is “such a mess” that these organizations don’t have a good sense of who their customers are, says Selland. And companies can’t ask their customers to opt-in to information if they don’t know who those customers are in the first place. Now is the time to get organized. The current Do-Not-Call legislation is about trying to stop prospecting abuses, not trying to stop people from communicating with their customers, Selland says. “Companies are going to have to spend less time prospecting and more time nurturing their current clients. Getting data in order is key to being able to do that,” he says.

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