Why Communications Automation Is Your Secret AR Weapon
It’s no surprise that email is the most highly used mode of business communications.
The efficiency and speed of an email communication has resisted the initial reluctance of businesses to adopt it for regular customer communications - it’s not as personal or interactive as a phone call, nor even a printed letter. However, in a "socially distant" world as well as a fast-paced one, thanks to increasing technological advances that make electronic communications more personalized and productive, email is the communications weapon of choice.
The silver bullet to making email truly impactful as a business tool, is automation. This is the part many businesses ignore or put off for “later”, but smart businesses know that the sooner they automate their typical communications - both internal and external - the more they will reap the benefits.
Automated email communications brings consistency to your conversations with your customers. They learn to expect to hear from you, they understand which topics or issues you will be contacting them about, and they become reliant on those reminders and updates. This means they remain engaged with you and your brand on an ongoing basis. When you’ve done the work mentioned above, around your messaging and voice, you build a connection of trust with your customers and the feeling that they know you - and you know them.
Email gives you the opportunity to clearly describe changes in the business, new policies, account updates and any other news to your clients in a way that allows them to have all the information at their fingertips, and accessible to them when they are ready to take it in. This translates into a higher level of accuracy of information being shared - the email has been thought through and written in advance - and you’re not catching the customer in a rushed moment on the phone, then relying on them to remember the information you shared. It minimizes potential human error because less is lost in interpretation and translation when it is thoughtfully written out to be consumed at a time that’s convenient for the customer.
Automating these emails reduces potential mistakes even more, by eliminating missed deadlines and ensuring important dates are kept top of mind. Someone on the AR team doesn’t have to look up a renewal date, then either remember to send the notice or hope they have time to send it before the end of the day. With automation, it’s already set up to be sent, to the benefit of both the AR specialist and the customer.
By automating the routine tasks, AR teams are able to focus on higher value tasks that really impact business operations and solve customer issues. This is beneficial in a number of ways: your team is happier because their work is more satisfying and productive, and it provides a faster and more thorough solution for the customer.
The flexibility and efficiency automated email communications can provide your team is exponential. With a smart AR system, you can create a smart communications program for each customer segment you communicate with, like an accounting manager, who wants more day-to-day billing and account management information, versus a CFO, who’s more interested in your business updates and market perspective.
Setting up a communication workflow isn’t complicated. It takes a bit of thought, based on your customer journey map, and time in advance to write your communications. But once you’ve selected your workflow and cadence, and written the messages, you are set for the rest of the year - if not longer.
Your customized, automated cadences will be constructed by:
- Type of information that needs to be shared.
- Billing information will have a more frequent, regular, structured cadence. These might include invoices, payment reminders, dunning letters and “thank you for your payment” letters.
- General business updates might be regularly scheduled but less frequent. This might be quarterly newsletters or annual ‘state of the business’ letter from the CEO.
- Changes in policy or account status may be triggered by certain events in the system, so while not regularly sent, they can still be scheduled for automated delivery and follow up. This might be delivery of tax statements, or your business response to a world event, such as COVID-19.
- Frequency of information to be shared.
- Company updates might be sent monthly or quarterly
- Customer account updates might be monthly
- Invoices could be monthly or weekly, depending on your terms
- Invoice reminders can be scheduled around due dates, and late notices can be timed to go out at regular intervals after those due dates if the invoice isn’t settled
- Automated responses to disputes can reassure customers you have received their message and promise an SLA for a return message
- Holiday messages, or information around special hours, can be timed appropriately
- Time zones, countries and cultural expectations will also play a role here if you’re an international business. Ensure that you are familiar with and follow GDPR standards, for example, and that you’re acquainted with the business communications expectations associated with the country or region you are doing business in. Sensitivity in these practices will solidify a sense of trust and a feeling of being understood that is highly valued by your customers.
- Escalation requirements. Work into your communications cadences at what point additional parties need to be brought into the loop. For example, after the second payment reminder, you might add the appropriate sales representative to the communication so they have visibility into the account status and can either help encourage payment or share information about the customer’s situation that will help everyone come to terms. Transparency in the escalation process ensures your entire team is delivering a consistent message and working together to support the customer.
With the many email communications that are necessary to improve your total customer experience, automation is such an important consideration. Automation of your email communications allows you to plan in advance, setup email sequences based on triggers and behaviors of your customers and helps provide your business a peace of mind knowing your communication with your customers is consistent, timely and easy.
For more tips on how to increase customer loyalty, revenue and employee engagement, check out our two new ebooks; "Customer Communications: Your Most Overlooked Superpower in AR", and "Delivering a World-Class AR Experience".