The ability to successfully implement a multichannel marketing communication strategy will most likely be the single biggest challenge -- and opportunity -- for energy providers over the next few years. As energy costs and consumption are impacted by events that may be beyond local control, it becomes more and more important to build trust and loyalty with customers. And today, meeting consumer needs effectively means more than having the information they want. It also means providing access to it morning, noon, or night via print, electronic, the Web, and mobile devices. A carefully planned customer communications management strategy answers these requirements and is supported by the robust technologies that can make it happen.
Deploying the power of multichannel campaigns requires having the ability to determine the communication preferences of each customer and being able to deliver compelling content through that channel. Whether a customer prefers to communicate via paper (mail), electronic (e-mail, Internet), mobile devices, or a combination of these channels, being able to meet these delivery preferences is quickly becoming an expectation rather than an option.
The key issues
Designing a multichannel communications initiative raises several key issues that must be considered to develop an effective program. Following are the most common:
Organizational commitment, accountability, and having the right technology in place for managing customer communications across all media channels are essential to a successful program. Software solutions are available to address the requirements of a multichannel, personalized communication strategy, and they are user-friendly enough to provide the flexibility needed to allow business users to create interactive, point-of-need, personalized documents. However, these solutions offer varying capabilities, so it pays to do research to find exactly the solution you need to achieve your communications objectives.
Many energy providers have recognized the value of outsourcing their physical print/mail operations to service bureaus and BPOs. This makes a lot of sense because print/mail operations are capital intensive, and are not a strategic or core capability of a utility. There are cost benefits to be gained when outsourcing your print/mail fulfillment, but these benefits should not jeopardize your organization's customer communication capability. Questions continuing to face organizations include: "What do I outsource and what do I keep in-house?" and "Do I want to own the software to enable my communications strategy or let someone else do it?"
One main challenge that arises for companies when they outsource their customer communications is that they risk losing the control, speed to market, and relevance of their documents and messages - their main contact with the customer. A successful multi-channel strategy will leverage the power of your non-technical, customer-focused employees to design, deliver, and maintain meaningful personalized customer communications while meeting the business and technical requirements of your print/mail provider to ensure optimum delivery.
Utility providers need flexibility and autonomy to complete interactive, point-of-need, personalized documents for customers, while ensuring accuracy and costs are controlled through centralized production and fulfillment. Insourcing customer communication management while outsourcing print fulfillment provides a way to make this possible.
Meaningful communications are the lifeline between energy providers and their customers, and it's wise to consider this a core capability of your business. With the broad acceptance of Internet-based communications and the increasing prevalence of smart phones, customer expectations are rising in terms of how you communicate with them. Implementing a well-thought-out customer communications strategy can help you forge stronger relationships with customers by getting important information to them more quickly -- and with a personal touch via the channel they prefer.