Multi-channel marketing and communication is a high priority in large organisations, but there are major barriers to achieving it.

These are among the findings of research commissioned by Pitney Bowes European software division, “Disconnected Customer Channels”, which surveyed financial services, telecoms and utilities industries. The study was carried out by research consultancy Opinion Matters. It surveyed 250 chief marketing officers and directors in business-to-consumer companies (financial services, utilities and telecoms) with over 1 000 employees in the UK, France and Germany.

Technology has provided an amazing array of new communication channels which allow people to receive information continually. “However, organisations are finding integrating communications channels a real challenge with the majority  saying they want to do so but  with only  a few achieving it,” says Jaap Nieboer, software solutions manager at Pitney Bowes South Africa.

“The situation is compounded by the growth in channels: Over half of the ongoing solutions now engage with customers via social networks (like Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging etcetera.),  but only a minor percentage  achieve integrated, cross-channel communications based on customer preferences,” he says.

“According to the research report published by Pitney Bowes Software, the result is often ‘lost’ customers, with fragmented communications blamed by 32% for losses during on-boarding, and mass un-personalised targeting blamed by 26%,” adds Nieboer.

In addition, about 27% of the CMOs (Chief Marketing Officer) say they are not capitalising on the inbound channel and only 9% have systems that model customer behaviour to make appropriate prompt that enable staff to maximise the opportunity throughout any channel.

The report also revealed that customers now use a whole range of different communications channels and expect continually improved standards of customer service from their providers. “These providers need to speak with a clear and coherent voice and this is proving a real challenge with today’s disconnected channels,” says Nieboer.

The survey reveals that, while most organisations are striving to fully integrate their communications and recognise this as best practice, only a minority have achieved it. Companies that are using sophisticated marketing segmentation techniques based on deep customer insights are also more likely to be using predictive analytic tools and communicating with customers via their preferred channels. However the research suggests that only 2% of companies have arrived at this level and can be seen as leading organisations in their market.

“Pitney Bowes believes in addressing the issues that affects its customers, and this report indicates that there are ways in which companies can connect customer channels to drive customer loyalty and lifetime value. Primarily, one needs to look at embracing technology to achieve cross-channel marketing.

“This can be achieved through inbound and outbound channel exploitation and ensuring that companies are making the most of all potential marketing opportunities. This can be achieved particularly during the onboarding phase, and with the inbound channel, by gathering insight during every interaction and using this to enable more relevant communications at every touch point,” Nieboer adds.