American Printer's mission is to be the most reliable and authoritative source of information on integrating tomorrow's technology with today's management.

Top 5 good, bad and ugly customer contact practices

Apr 18, 2011 12:00 AM


         Subscribe in NewsGator Online   Subscribe in Bloglines

After getting my fifth useless e-blast from a vendor partner this week, I started opting out of everything I received from my vendor partners because of pure frustration. I buy from them, but they hit me too hard with thoughtless messages. Sorry, partners, but too much of a good thing poisoned this communication channel with me.

I get the feeling these vendors care more about campaign success than me. They don’t get in the ball park of my needs. I feel someone is behind their e-blast software, saying, “More is better. Grab more e-mails, send more messages. Send more and something will stick. Throw any e-mail we find on a business card  in the rubbish or parking lot, or scraped from the Internet! Throw it into that massive pool of ever-growing e-mails mixing customers with prospects."

This "blast, blast, blast" mentality is sending a message to me that campaigns are more important than customer relationships, cost saving is king, covering everything the company does in one e-mail is efficient, and it is not important to know who the customer is. They don’t know who the customer is and don’t care, because they just want to sell more stuff.

Seriously, we have all made mistakes with e-blasts like the best of them, so I should not throw stones while living in my glass house. But we all need to learn and adjust. It’s challenging, but I believe it is critical to categorize customers when conducting e-blasts and direct mail. Begin with a defined process, a discipline, and the right customer relationship management (CRM) software. Then get to know your customers and segment appropriately. Don’t forget to train sales reps on the importance of this information and how information will be used. Don’t go nuts categorizing customers into three or four categories or you will lose your mind managing who got what e-blast and when.

Simplify based on customer information that will help you send messages that build relationships rather than destroy them. Send information to them that they will probably be interested in. You might want to break your list by region, industry vertical, networking group, relationship or self-selected interests. Segmenting your customer list is just as important as segmenting prospect lists. Be careful not to over communicate with e-blasts. They might not opt out because they know you and like you, but instead they will hit "delete" because they are numb and disinterested. Get feedback from customers on what they like. Customer opt outs can be misleading because customers want to be nice to you.

Top 5 "Good" practices

1. Take time to map your customer base and how you should segment.

2. Do not segment your list too much, so you can manage frequency of e-blasts at the individual level.

3. Create a process for segmenting as new customers come online.

4. Invest in a good CRM to support your current and future needs.

5. Train your staff, explain the benefits and monitor the process.

Top 5 "Bad" practices

1. Hacking something together that is not sustainable and falls out of tune quickly.

2. Not knowing who you blasted to and when, so you have no controls and you over-blast.

3. Poor staff training, so no one knows what is going on and the segmentation is not working.

4. No measurements. Getting some results from e-blasting can lead you to think, incorrectly, that you are doing a good job.

5. Not investing in a good CRM with a mapped out process, resulting in a poor foundation.

Top 5 "Ugly" practices

1. Not e-blasting because you are afraid of over e-blasting.

2. Thinking e-blasting is a fad.

3. Saying you will get a handle on your customer e-mails next year.

4. Sending out dead links or ugly content.

5. Having your customer e-mail list decentralized in multiple computers, laptops and personal accounts.

It’s not easy, but planning, setting up and managing your customer e-blast process will help cultivate better relationships. It all starts with knowing your customer at the individual level, respecting his or her appetite for your information, and sending content of specific interest. Good luck and I hope this helps us as we move forward into this continuously evolving e-blast world.

Michael Casey is president & founder of Survey Advantage (www.surveyadvantage.com/printers), a strategic partner with several associations and franchises. Through partnership with MIS providers, Survey Advantage offers automated customer survey services.