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Beyond email – engage with customers in context

I love email. It is a great way to communicate. And very convenient for subscription businesses to communicate with customers. But your emails run the risk of being lost in the deluge of content and spam that invades our inbox every day. Your customers would be a lot happier if they could control when and how you communicate with them.

In today’s increasingly digital society, communications with customers of digital goods is predominantly conducted via email. And while email is a useful and convenient tool, it has its drawbacks and limitations, and is certainly not everyone’s first choice. When exploring how to optimize communications with customers to improve the customer experience, there are other options to take into account.

One trip, 30+ emails

For a recent weekend vacation I took in New York City, I received more than thirty emails related to the trip. There were emails about bookings – my flight, my hotel, my rental car, a Broadway show I planned on seeing, restaurants and more. Next came a host of reminder emails so that I would not forget a reservation made. After that, it was the turn of the receipt emails. At this point, I thought the email onslaught over. I was wrong. Along comes a final volley of emails requesting me to fill in surveys and provide feedback. I tell you what my feedback is. Too many emails!!!

Email overload in context

People are inundated with email today. Every product they use, service they sign up for and vacation they take can generate vast numbers of emails. For businesses, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach customer by email due to the noise in the system. Increasingly I find myself ignoring many emails because I am simply overwhelmed by the sheer quantity. And it doesn’t help that people are more wary today of email due to email fraud (phishing).

So even though, as a subscription business, you are probably only sending a handful of emails to prospects and customers – and I am sure the emails you send are delivering value to your subscribers – there is a context. And that context is email overload. Your email communications may in fact have a negative impact on the customer experience.

How to improve communications

To ensure positive communications with customers, you must interact with them through their preferred mode of communications. Successful subscription providers must evolve from email or single-channel communications to multi-channel, and let customers decide how they wish to interact with you. The customer, after all, is king. So in addition to email, you should be on messaging apps and social media such as SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, In-App interaction, etc.

How do you know through which channel to communicate with each customer? Easy! Ask them! Failing that, reply to them in the channel they used to contact or respond to you.

Contextual communications – catching the “moment of interaction”

Engaging with customers through their preferred channel is progress, but it is only a first step. The next step is to engage with them “contextually.” That means not just via the right channel, but also at the right time, and on the right device. The “right time” is not just a matter of the right day of the week and time of day. Beyond that, you are looking also to reach out at the “moment of interaction,” i.e., the moment the customer is actually using or thinking about your service.

In-app interaction is, in my opinion, a great way and a great example of how to optimally interact with a customer. When a customer opens your app, you know that this is the time they want to use your service. They are engaged now. In real time. You have their attention and they are willing to listen. Grab this opportunity to inform them of a new offer, a new product, or share other valuable information. You are much more likely to see success.

How might this work in practice? Take, for example, a streaming content provider. Rather than sending regular emails about which content is popular or trending, they could pop this info up as you access their page or app. At that moment, the “moment of interaction,” consumers will pay attention to the message. They will be delighted to receive recommendations. And act upon them. Compare the effectiveness of this type of contextual in-app communication with an email that arrives in your inbox on a Monday morning along with 50 other urgent work-related emails you have to handle first.

As the world becomes more digital, the way to communicate with customers will become increasingly important and complex. To have meaningful and positive customer experiences, subscription businesses must evolve their customer communications strategies and capabilities to support the channels their customers prefer, and to bring interactive context to the dialog.

About Author

Liam Maxwell

Liam Maxwell

Liam has over 25 years of experience in billing, payments and operational support systems in enterprise software and telecommunications. His primary areas of focus are software development and integration strategy. Prior to Vindicia, Liam was responsible for software development and product portfolio strategy for Oracle’s Communications Business Unit. Previously, Liam worked at Portal Software, Aerial Communications, and Computer Science Corp. He holds a BS degree in Business Administration from Illinois State University.

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