At its core, customer engagement is about encouraging customers to take actions that drive beneficial results for them and your organization. Effective customer engagement incorporates everything from how you initiate contact with customers, to – in the case of online payments – their experience submitting a payment.
Customer engagement is so important because – when done correctly – it has the potential to drive significant, positive results for your organization. Well-designed customer engagement strategies create operational efficiencies by driving increased customer self-service. Simple, self-serve interactions result in happier customers and reduced workloads for your staff.
For most service organizations, billing is one of the very few touchpoints that can be leveraged to engage with customers. That's why it’s so vital to get every customer interaction right.
If you are trying to influence customer behavior to encourage them to engage more easily or quickly through self-serve technology, it’s important to realize that everything starts with clear, timely communications. So, to get started improving customer engagement, it makes sense to take a look at how you're communicating with customers. When it comes to online payments, this means everything from emails about when bills are due and how to pay them, to notices about account updates and payment confirmation.
What are intelligent communications?
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just set up channels to communicate with your customers. Customers expect you to know about their preferences – which channels they like to use – and their payment history. Intelligent communications leverage information you already have about your customers to provide targeted reminders and notifications. For instance, your organization shouldn’t be sending a payment reminder email to someone who has already paid their bill. And one single email message about an upcoming bill isn’t enough to alleviate the ‘I forgot’ excuse when customers don’t pay bills on time.
How to build intelligent communications
So what do intelligent communications look like in practice? Your communications with customers should:
- Be optimized for every channel. You already know that customers want to pay on the channel of their choice. The same is true for communication preferences: every customer is different. Some customers want the option to set a reminder for themselves, while others would prefer to receive a text message or outbound (IVR) notification.
- Be Empathetic. Messages to customers must be timed to be helpful, informing them of things that are in their best interest to know. Customers want to avoid late fees, update their credit cards before they expire and be reminded that their automatic payment date is approaching. Intelligent communications preempt their need to inquire or look something up.
- Drive action. Clear calls to action (such as a ‘Pay Bill Now’ button) are important in customer communications. This ensures customers can easily access and pay their bills, without having to search.
- Enable simple, easy payments. When customers receive a bill notification, they should be able to easily make a payment through the notification. This is true for e-mail reminders or text messages. Customers shouldn’t have to login to make a payment or search for their invoice. Simple, ‘one-click’ payment options from bill notifications drive the highest levels of self-service.
It's important to remember that communication doesn’t stop when a customer makes a payment. Post-payment confirmation emails and communications should also follow the above guidelines. In this case, the action you should drive customers to make is to enroll in time and cost-savings services like AutoPay and paperless billing.
The impact on customer engagement
Customers are looking for simple and consistent payment experiences. Intelligent, targeted communications that enable easy payments directly from the device of your customer's choice improve customer engagement and self-service levels. Beyond that, intelligent communications that help your customers remember to pay their bills on time improve your organization's on-time collection rates. Higher levels of online customer engagement will translate to less walk-in and mail-in payments, fewer customer service calls, and reduced staff workloads (and headaches). What’s more, it will likely improve your overall customer satisfaction ratings and reduce customer churn.
To learn more about how to get started improving customer engagement at your organization today, download our ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Customer Engagement.