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Shift: how to use CCM communication strategies to shape customer behaviour

In the always-on world of smartphones, the internet, and social media, we’re being increasingly bombarded with information and messages. Cutting through the noise to reach your customers is becoming more and more difficult.

Against this backdrop, what constitutes good customer experience is also changing. Users now expect content that’s personalised to their unique requirements, available on-demand, and through a multitude of channels. One-size-fits-all messaging and one-way broadcast communication strategies are no longer effective.

With competition as fierce as ever, effectively navigating a growing number of touchpoints and influencing your customers has never been so critical.

But how do you do this?

Although you may be obliged to send out letters, invoices, statements, legal documents, and more, your Customer Communications Management (CCM) tooling may, in fact, be your greatest asset in reaching customers at the right moment, with the right message.

And if you haven’t yet made the switch from manual customer communication processes such as Word and email, the case for moving to a CCM system just got stronger.

“When [we] understand the consumer decision journey and direct [our] spending and messaging to the moments of maximum influence, [we] stand a much greater chance of reaching consumers in the right place at the right time with the right message.”

– David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder, and Ole Jørgen Vetvik – McKinsey, ‘The consumer decision journey.’

Section 2: The power of CCM

Regular structured customer communications can quickly gain inertia internally, changing little from year to year. And for a customer, they can be just as easy to ignore.

However, CCM should be considered a fundamental part of how businesses can influence customer experience. Employed correctly, CCM has the power to influence customer perception and the way they behave. CCM can:


Increase customer engagement and build brand loyalty.


Enable the business to enhance customer profitability.


Improve the performance and efficiency of the organisation.


Change the way customers behave—if the timing, format, and messaging are clear and compelling enough.

You can maximise the value of your investment in CCM by combining analytics and insights with behavioural science to create communication strategies that transform your CCM system into an effective lever to influence customer behaviour.

Get ready to find out how.

“Traditionally, organizations have used [CCM systems] to broadcast static (mainly print) output to customers. Today’s CCM market embraces a more dynamic, interactive model. CCM applications create personalized, on-demand communications that support multi-experience distribution, often based on the recipient’s preferences rather than the sender’s.”

– Lane Severson, Gene Phifer – Gartner, ‘Market Guide for Customer Communications Management.’

Section 3: How to shift

We’ve drawn from the research of top psychologists, leading universities, government agencies, and commercial enterprises that have delved deep into the world of behavioural science and behavioural economics to uncover unique insights.

The result is six key principles that you can incorporate into your CCM and communication strategies to effectively influence customer behaviour. We’ll also show you the technology and processes you can adopt to help seamlessly integrate these principles into your business.

Reduce the effort involved

People are leading increasingly busy lives. To encourage customers to feel comfortable about taking a desired action, you need to make it simple and convenient for them to do so.

This could mean referring customers directly to a personalised, pre-filled form that has guided data entry and e-signature built in, rather than sending them a paper form or directing them to a website where the onus is on them to locate, download, and manually complete the form. This small change will reduce the burden on the user, increase response rates, and minimise errors.

Help customers by issuing auto reminders when responses aren’t received within a set time limit. Work with customer owners to set appropriate time limits; they’ll know how sensitive customers can be to too many or too frequent notifications.

Use your CCM system to analyse the customer journey by tracking inbound and outbound actions and identify where roadblocks exist or where the process can be simplified. Remove all possible barriers, ensure that messaging is clear and to the point and that actions required by customers are straightforward.

If the process is complex, help the customer by breaking it down into smaller, easier to manage actions, such as formatting copy into a clear, numbered set of steps rather than including important information within a series of paragraphs.

Go with the flow

A study by Harvard Business Review found that people are much more likely to choose an option if it’s the default, regardless of whether its intended influence is disclosed.

Presenting customers with a good option by default removes the need to make a decision and significantly increases the chances that it’ll be chosen.

This might be something as simple as an opt-in by default message that suggests “if you’re happy with the above, you don’t need to do anything.“ Social networking sites, for example, often set default options around privacy and data sharing that go unchanged by users unless they feel strongly about it.

You’ll need: automation and metrics

A comprehensive CCM system that allows you to:

  • Automatically issue personalised, pre-filled smart forms, agreements, and other documents that require customers’ completion and return or submission.
  • Collect verified digital signatures through embedded e-signature integration.
  • Track opens, clicks, and returns/submissions. You can then measure when forms, agreements, and other documents haven’t been completed and send auto reminders. In addition, metrics can be used to measure the penetration or success of a campaign. This in turn can influence what communication is sent next to those who responded positively and those who were ambivalent.

Close working relationships with business system owners to facilitate integration between your CCM solution and other business systems. For instance, a CRM solution that handles core customer data can automatically pass a customer’s delivery preference to the CCM solution in the transactional data.

Articulate the benefits.

Customers are motivated by various types of rewards, whether it be conscious or subconscious, intrinsic or extrinsic. McKinsey 2 suggests that incentives should provide immediate gratification, with people responding “objectively” to better offers. Financial incentives are particularly effective.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia did this during a recent interest rate drop to encourage their home loan customers to maintain their level of repayments. By using messaging in internet banking and on statements, they demonstrated how much faster the loan would be paid off if the customer kept their repayments the same.

Use the framing effect.

When presenting choices, it’s possible to tap into customers’ cognitive biases and ‘nudge’ them in a preferred direction. Forrester recommends using positive, approachable language to frame the value proposition favourably.

For example, advertising a service costing ‘just $1 a day’ is likely to be more successful than advertising the same service as ‘$365 a year’.

Draw attention.

Using personalisation, images, video, and colour can all help to attract the customer’s attention to taking the desired action. To illustrate, when the DVLA wrote to persistent non-payers of car tax in the UK, it included an image of the offending vehicle. Payment rates increased from 40 to 49%.

Think about the demographics of your customers. Consider, for example, their gender, age, postcode, ethnicity, language, or education level and tailor correspondence accordingly.

Your CCM system should be able to combine clever template design and compelling content with a presentation ruleset to deliver a superior, personalised customer experience.

This will make every communication—from monthly statements to renewal notices—a golden opportunity to inform customers about relevant new programs and services, offers, and promotions they’d benefit from, and tips specific to their usage.

You’ll need: flexibility and integration

A flexible CCM system that allows you to:

  • Create omnichannel templates that render communications according to the delivery method.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. Use multi-scenario and even multi-lingual templates to toggle content and its presentation based on specific business and demographic indicators.
  • Explore great variability in what you can present to customers, with the ability to easily change formatting and presentation.

Integrated business systems that allow you to capitalise on the data you’ve to show or hide content based on the customer’s profile.

Image and video libraries that are relevant, exuberant, eye-grabbing images and videos can be added to correspondence to attract attention and increase engagement.

Use the power of social influence.

McKinsey suggests that customers are influenced by what others do, say, or think. Demonstrating that most people behave in a certain way can help to persuade customers in a desired direction.

Utility company Xcel Energy (USA) does this effectively by letting its customers compare their energy consumption with that of their neighbours. The ‘My Energy Usage’ tool shows customers where they stand in relation to their most efficient neighbours, plus providing tips on reducing their usage, it permits them to save on monthly bills.

Create a point of reference with anchoring.

Supplying customers with an initial number or point of reference can have a significant influence on subsequent decision-making.

Contributing more expensive options as a means of comparison with the option you’d like customers to consider most will encourage customers to attribute greater value to that offer, making it easier for them to choose your preferred option.

You’ll need: efficiency and creativity

An efficient CCM system that allows you to:

  • Draw the reader’s eye to key messages by using a high degree of formatting flexibility.
  • Employ templates which are easily adaptable. This will encourage creativity within your organisation.
  • Automatically generate a large variety of graphs, charts, and infographics to accompany your chosen message.
  • Incorporate into bills and statements, responsive digital documents that are expandable and collapsible, letting the customer drill down into the content.
  • Collect detailed customer data and segment customers, for example, by neighbourhood or another relevant demographic characteristic by referring customers to simple, very brief personalised questionnaires or forms, with a reward. Incentives are a great way to boost response rates.

Generate positive emotions.

The role of emotion in customer decision-making is well documented and savvy businesses can use it to their advantage. According to McKinsey , we should aim to create “yes” emotions in customers. In one real-world experiment, a bank achieved the same demand effect by using a photo of an attractive, happy person in their communications, as they did by reducing the mortgage rate by 100 basis points. A/B testing and prototyping are invaluable in gaining rapid insights into the effectiveness of initiatives.

Focus on perceptions.

People are motivated by how they see themselves and want others to view them positively as well. The “positive peer pressure” technique is effective in situations where the goal is to encourage commitment or repeat visits. It’s used successfully by companies like Weight Watchers, which relies on members making a public commitment to lose weight.

You’ll need: experimentation and collaboration

A scalable CCM system that allows you to:

  • Lead or respond quickly to the needs of the marketplace through rapid automated prototyping and testing.
  • Automate an expeditious customer review and approval process.
  • Measure the effectiveness of communications or campaigns by tracking open and click rates.

A well defined experimentation process to help inform decision-making. Set a clear purpose and establish controls and limited variables to perform an objective assessment of initiatives.

A process to ensure that the right people are involved in the contribution, review, and approval loop, and to make sure that what’s presented is clear and intuitive.

Increase the relevance.

Sometimes the reason people don’t take a particular action is simply because they don’t know about it, understand it, or see it as relevant to them. By using simple, consistent messaging, you can raise awareness and guide customers in a desired direction.

Rather than explaining a situation in terms of what you as an organisation are doing, consider reversing the message so that it’s written from the customers’ perspective. Or, include a set of example scenarios which will help people identify which one resembles their situation the most.

Explore the capability of your CCM platform to generate dynamic visualisations, such as using templates where recipients can expand or collapse sections and drill down as needed.

Improve salience.

People absorb messages that are easy to process and remember. According to McKinsey , frequently highlighting the consequences of a behaviour can be particularly persuasive—providing customers with regular updates on energy usage and price increases was more than twice as effective in reducing energy consumption than annual updates.

Don’t ignore the benefits of new communication channels either. Making use of your ability to send images or videos that explain what you’re trying to communicate will help people more clearly understand and remember what you want them to know.

Video can be personalised based on the data that you hold on a customer; shown as text in the video or woven into the speech. To be effective, videos need to be short and punchy and work well when they’re embedded or linked from an email or SMS.

You’ll need: variability and understanding

A dynamic CCM system that allows you to:

  • Vary the design of communications in terms of colour, structure, layout, imagery, and fonts to achieve maximum impact.
  • Employ flexible template designs that let you layer content to make messaging more understood. For example, you could use flexible and expandable emails linking to web pages and smart forms, as opposed to a fixed format letter layout.
  • Vary content toggling based on business and demographic indicators. This could include the auto-generation of notifications, for instance, for customers reaching consumption thresholds on internet data or public transport charges.

An understanding of the potential benefits and limitations of different delivery methods. For example, explore how your customers navigate and digest a message in a letter versus navigating and digesting the same message via email on a mobile.

Tap motivation at its peak.

The same offer is likely to be met with varying levels of interest depending on its timing. Sending triggers when customers are most likely to be receptive drastically improves the chances of a successful behavioural response. To illustrate, this can be achieved by sending a renewal reminder for an annual subscription 30 days before the expiry date, and then again seven days before if no action has been taken. In renewal scenarios, prompts are often regarded as helpful, though bear in mind that if misused, reminders or prompts could be irritating to the customer.

An example that could work (but that isn’t happening right now as far as we know) is being sent a passport expiry notification six months in advance. This would benefit both the agency and customers by reducing the number of last-minute passport renewals that have to be processed, while removing a pain point for those preparing to go overseas and discovering their passport isn’t valid for the trip.

Help customers to overcome barriers.

There’s often a significant gap between what customers intend to do and what they actually do. Help them to identify any barriers to action and plan their response. People prefer rewards that are delivered immediately versus in the future, so drawing attention to any immediate benefits can be hugely motivational.

One experiment demonstrated the effectiveness of planning prompts. People who were sent a sticky note with their colonoscopy reminder and encouraged to write down the date of the appointment, were more likely follow it through.

You’ll need: triggers and insights

A responsive CCM system that allows you to:

  • Automatically trigger the generation of preset templates based on set intervals or signals from line-of-business systems.
  • Combine and use data from any number of business systems, for example, CRM and billing systems, so that an engaging ‘picture can be painted’ on correspondence.

A way of sharing insights with business system owners and content owners to enable access to a variety of data so that more effective, interactive communications can be sent.

More tips for success

Content owners, top-notch copy writers, and brand experts are key in accomplishing your goals. Successful collaboration will ensure that your customer communications are understood and timely, customer interactions are easy and social, and that your products and services are attractive and desirable.

Think about how closely and easily your content and brand experts work with your CCM process and solution experts. How can good, innovative customer communication strategies be quickly and seamlessly enacted?

Don’t let your CCM solution be a handbrake on your content and marketing ideas. Make sure you have a solution that’s responsive and flexible so that all options can be explored and tested.

Aim for a single, organisation-wide solution so that:

  • All outbound and inbound communications can be tracked, related, and linked to contact centre actions.
  • Consistency of both content and ‘look and feel’ are ensured.
  • Broad organisation-wide changes can be made efficiently and with far less risk, such as marketing campaigns or messages, branding, disclaimers, privacy statements, contact information, etc.

Section 4: The benefits of getting it right

For organisations that successfully maximise the value of their CCM tools, the rewards are numerous and substantial:

“End-to-end customer communications management (CCM) solutions offer tremendous ROI potential. Businesses can increase revenue by reducing churn and using analytics-driven cross-selling campaigns while lowering their costs by streamlining call center and document distribution operations. Taken together, these add up to a significant return on investment for forward-thinking companies.”

– Toby Bell – Gartner, Inc. ‘The CCM Connection’

Getting it right really does require a symphony of roles and expertise to come together. People and processes are just as important as systems. How satisfactory are yours?

Section 5: Conclusion

In a fiercely competitive world where reaching and influencing customers is becoming increasingly difficult, CCM is shining through as a fundamental piece of the jigsaw.

The six principles we’ve outlined here can be used to drive many desired outcomes, from generating brand loyalty to successfully introducing new products.

For maximum impact in making the shift, clearly define the behavioural response that’s required, consider the context within which the communication will be received, and use several strategies at once. Adopt a ‘test and learn’ culture to measure the effectiveness of each approach and build a positive feedback loop.

Finally, consider your CCM capability and whether your systems and processes are up to the challenge. Can you easily make impactful customer communications that’ll really improve your customers’ experience and your bottom line?

“No matter how motivated consumers may be to try your product or service, or how unhappy they may be with their current situation, if you do not focus on a comprehensive plan for changing their behavior, then you are unlikely to have a significant influence on them.”

– – Art Markman – Harvard Business Review, ‘Don’t Persuade Customers – Just Change Their Behavior.’