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Outsourced communications specialist Opus Trust Marketing has published a report outlining the findings of a roundtable discussion it held on the changing face of customer communications.With 35 representatives from large, well-known organisations – spanning utilities, the public sector, construction and insurance – attending the roundtable, the report provides an insight into customer communications across a range of sectors.

The roundtable addressed the main issues facing the teams that are tasked with delivering effective customer communications –focusing on today’s diverse channel mix, as well as new technologies and GDPR.

The discussion provided an insight into how different organisations are using traditional and new communication channels. It was acknowledged that the increased use of mobile devices means that more consumers than ever expect to use digital channels as a means of interacting with businesses, whether for banking, product research or retail purposes.

Participants therefore debated the extent to which the channel mix has changed in recent years, with a particular focus on customer preferences and effectiveness. It was suggested that an integrated mix of physical and digital is the most appropriate route to take, with the emphasis depending upon the objective, audience and nature of the communication.It was agreed that the vast majority of customers, in various sectors, are likely to still see value in post, and that research highlights that any communications requiring a customer response will have greater impact if printed and posted to the recipient.

The impact that new technology like AI can have on customer engagement was also discussed, with about 50 per cent of the guests attending the session working in businesses that are already using AI. There was general acknowledgement that the potential for AI in customer communications is far-reaching.

The highly topical GDPR was also a discussion point.It was agreed that its introduction shouldn’t change the way businesses communicate their messages. GDPR will improve control, auditability and data security – and will ensure that these are considered from the very beginning of a marketing campaign until the end, and beyond.

Rob Alonso,acting CEO of Opus Trust Marketing, said: “From the roundtable discussion we held, it’s clear that different groups of customers have different ways of interacting, and today, communications strategies tend to incorporate a mix of post and digital communications.

“New digital channels present a great opportunity for customer engagement. The UK’s online audience stood at 50.4 million in March 2017, with people spending an average of 83 hours per month online. While ‘digital-native’ millennials are the most likely to transact digitally, it’s a trend that permeates all ages and demographics. There are around three billion users on the top four messaging apps each month, with Facebook, for instance, having 50 million small business pages and facilitating the exchange of one billion messages between businesses and users every month. However, less than half of businesses provide customers with the option to connect via messaging apps.

“While there’s plenty of evidence to show that businesses must adapt and embrace digital communications, a digital-only approach is not the answer. Research demonstrates that physical mail creates a stronger emotional response than, for instance, email. It has also been found that physical mail is remembered more readily than its digital counterparts; an important consideration where businesses require the recipient to take an action, such as paying a bill or making an enquiry.

“It is vital that businesses understand their consumers’ behaviour and preferences if they are to build an effective communications strategy. It’s clear that a multi-channel approach is key, and businesses must be prepared for this diversity to continue to change and expand. Importantly, the strategies devised must not only work for customers, but also for the business.”

Opus Trust Marketing provides integrated communications services for high-profile businesses across a wide range of sectors, from energy and finance to travel and the public sector. It sends out almost 1.3 million communications for its customers every working day. The company continues to invest in new technologies, enabling businesses to access their customers in new and engaging ways.

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