How to manage multi-channel communications more effectively

Small businesses can end up squandering time, confusing their customers and missing opportunities through inefficiency 

As the workplace becomes increasingly digitised, the way businesses communicate with their customers and partners is evolving – from the traditional physical posting of documents and faxing, to more modern methods of digital communication, such as emails and social media.
This often leaves small and medium enterprises (SMEs) faced with the challenge of managing communications across multiple channels, which can not only be daunting and complex, but can also inhibit business growth if not done effectively. Communication tools help businesses gain and share intelligence with existing and potential customers –something that’s particularly important for a company starting out and hoping to grow.
A big problem is that small businesses which can’t manage multiple channels efficiently can end up squandering time, confusing their customers and missing opportunities.
Is this something you struggle with as an SME? If you do, we’ve highlighted five factors we think are worth considering. See below.

Top tips for SMEs managing multi-channel communications 

1.The customer knows best
This may seem obvious, but asking a customer how they wish to be communicated with can help create and maintain good customer relations, which is crucial for any small business. Some may want to be contacted through traditional means but, as the office becomes increasingly digitised, more forward-thinking companies may want documents to be sent electronically. What’s important is that a business recognises the customer’s preferred method of contact. In fact, businesses risk alienating customers if they disregard traditional methods.
  1. One size doesn’t fit all
When creating a communication strategy, many businesses adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It often appears to be the most straightforward route to take, but this can be the most inefficient way of keeping business. Basic email applications are often included as part of a standard business package, which means many businesses use them as the primary tool to communicate electronically with their customers.
Often praised for their ease of use, these tools are undoubtedly suited for day-to-day communications, such as status updates or queries. But when they are used to send more important business documents (invoices or contracts) they can sometimes fall short both in terms of efficiency and compliance. Regulations and the evolution of customer’s preferences mean keeping track of digital and physical mail has become essential. Most email suites do not do this natively, which can create a disorganised and inefficient workplace, and risks upsetting customers who won’t feel well taken care of.
  1. Change your attitude
Despite managing increasingly large volumes of data, SMEs are often reluctant to incorporate new technology into their information management process. Whether it is due to cost, complexity, or simply fear of change, many choose to stick with outdated processes and add unconnected tools to help temporarily. However, this adds an unwelcome level of complexity to their day to day tasks.
Technology can and will help with each stage of growth in today’s business world. In fact, Gartner recently predicted that by 2020 every company will be a ‘technology company’, emphasising the huge influence technology does and will continue to have.
  1. Automation, automation, automation
Too often we underestimate how much time can be spent creating and sending documents manually, as well as the significant risk of human error. Companies that centralise and automate the preparation, processing and sending of various forms of outgoing communications, spend much more time on business-critical activities and are safe in the knowledge that every document sent out is error-free; also reducing the risk of potentially damaging relationships with new or prospective customers.
  1. Make use of the cloud
The cloud is changing the way SMEs communicate. It can provide instant, secure, access to records from anywhere, whether it’s in the office, at home or in the back of a taxi.  Along with other advancing technologies, such as the rise of bring your own device, employees are no longer bound by geographical limitations, which enable organisations to maximise the efficiency of all business processes.
Adopting new technology doesn’t have to be disruptive or cumbersome. As long as existing (efficient) processes are not affected, adopting new technology that helps to reinforce and speed them up delivers visible benefits – none more so than the ability to allocate valuable time where it is better spent.

47% of SMEs consider time-wasting their biggest challenge

Neopost, a leading provider of mail solutions announced the results of a recent survey that explored the difficulties SME’s have when managing multi-channel communication.
The research, conducted by *Opinionway, revealed that, on average, SMEs generate 641 documents every single month, and that over half of them use both physical and digital channels for general correspondence (59%) and invoicing (53%).
But there appears to be a lack of know-how when it comes to managing these methods effectively, which results in time-wasting, human errors and a lack of traceability.
Therefore, SMEs often end up spending additional time manually editing documents, including adding attachments (76%), merging with other documents (74%) and adding further information (74%). It’s therefore unsurprising that 47% of SMEs consider time-wasting as their biggest challenge, followed by the risk of human error (45%). With regards to traceability, SMEs rarely track their sent invoices or contracts, with 51% admitting that they find it difficult to record communications across all channels.
Hopefully, with the above tips and a greater understanding of the changing media landscape, businesses like yours can not only survive but thrive, and effectively enhance customer experiences.
*280 UK SMEs were surveyed by OpinionWay on behalf of Neopost
For more help to save time and money, particularly when it comes to business services such as water, telecoms and energy, contact us at Clear Business. 
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