Mark Thomson, media director at Royal Mail, argues that transactional mail provides financial services organisations the opportunity to engender loyalty.
Most marketers would agree that building customer loyalty is an ongoing battle, and one that they must win if their brand is to prosper.
But how can they go about creating loyal customers to ensure they don’t jump ship to one of the many competitors snapping at their heels?
The answer is to prove themselves to their customers and convince them not to look elsewhere. Key to this is the importance of asking a fundamental question that should precede every marketing strategy: ’what do my customers want?’
It’s only by asking and acting on this question that you can build the trust and loyalty that turns a casual prospect into a long term customer.
An obvious and key place for brands to start asking this question is in relation to customers’ preferred communications channels.
We recently carried out research into how customers in the financial sector prefer to receive their information. Despite the popularity of internet banking, the clear message was that the vast majority of customers are not happy with purely online communications – they want their statements sent through the post.
For some, this was instead of accessing their details online. For many, it was alongside their online activity.
More than half of respondents (69%) chose this combination of paper and online statements and bills as the ideal way to manage their accounts.
This way they can read paper statements at their leisure and have easy access to tangible financial records.
Sending material through the post, particularly important financial information such as bank statements or utility bills, creates a link between business and customers which is almost impossible to recreate through a web page.
Digital communications may be convenient and accessible, but they can also be anonymous and generic. Paper statements provide customers with that reassurance and trust that is so essential for financial sector companies.
And the study suggests that removing paper communications can damage customer relationships and even erode customer loyalty – 65% of people said they would consider defecting to a competitor if the option of paper statements was no longer available.
Even some of those who prefer to receive information in a digital format (29%) would move or consider switching if the option to receive paper statements was taken away.
So removing the mail element of their communications could spell serious trouble for the financial sector, cancelling out the benefits of the numerous CRM tools that are available offline.
But this not all the study showed. It also underlined how something that may, by some, be considered purely as a means of keeping a customer informed of their account details can add value to the marketing effort of a business.
Integrating marketing materials into transactional documents such as statements can be hugely effective. The nature of paper statements means that customers take their time when reading, and often keep and reread material – so why not add a promotional message?
In fact our research provides the evidence of the benefit with 70% of consumers saying that they would be more likely to notice advertising on their paper statements.
Ultimately, the basis of every lasting relationship comes down to listening to your customers and speaking to them through the channels they choose.
It is a vital step in enjoying loyalty and trust from customers – and those that ignore the vital role transactional mail can play do so at their peril.