When was the last time your organization did a customer communication audit? If it's been a few years, or if you've never looked at all your customer communications as a whole, now would be a great time to start.

A customer communication audit identifies all the messages customers receive from your company, across all channels. The purpose of doing this exercise is to ensure that your messaging is consistent, is created efficiently, and is necessary. Be prepared. This is a messy project.

What Is a Customer Communication Audit?

You’ve probably heard of journey maps. This audit is similar in that your aim is to document a series of steps associated with customer actions or status, but customer communication audits are less structured. Many departments or divisions may communicate with your customers across various channels and according to an abundance of rules and conditions. The number of touchpoints may surprise you once you see them all together in one place.

What qualifies as a customer communication? Pretty much everything! Some are easy to identify, such as welcome kits, bills, and statements. These are common documents companies send to all their customers, often in large batches. Depending on your industry, you might also generate items like insurance claim documents or donation appeals. Annual regulated notices like privacy policies count as well.

Other communications may be less obvious because they are generated individually. These documents are triggered by customer actions, dates, or changes in your company’s policies or products. Correspondence from customer service agents, random surveys, or product recall letters would be included in this category.

Consider All Channels

Your company may print some of these outbound messages and deliver them via the postal mail. Some are probably emails and text messages. Your company may use automatic outbound voice technology for notices and reminders. And don’t forget about website content or those telephone on-hold announcements. Auto-replies to queries customers submit through email or a form on your website are also part of the overall customer communication effort.

If accounting for all your company’s customer communications sounds like a lot of work to you, you’re right! That’s probably why companies don’t do customer communication audits very often. So why bother? What is the value of a customer communication audit?

Why Do It?

Chances are good your organization has a goal to improve the customer experience (CX). Lots of factors influence customer experience, but every single communication on its own, plus the combined impact of multiple communications definitely plays a part. Situations such as redundant or irrelevant messages, mis-timed notices, or contradictory information can negatively affect CX. Contrarily, targeted personalized communications can improve CX and lead to positive outcomes. Great communication strategies can generate upsell opportunities and improve customer retention.

Customers of large organizations often receive messages generated by multiple departments who don’t necessarily communicate effectively among themselves. The customers consider all those messages bearing the company logo to be from the same source. They feel the company should understand their relationship and history, even if the interactions that form the history involved different parts of the organization. An organization unable to construct this 360-degree view risks damage to the customer experience, leading to declining customer loyalty.

How to Conduct an Audit

One approach to customer communication audits is to gather samples of each outbound document and make a timeline by tacking them all to the wall in a conference room. Another method involves customer focus groups or interviews. Or talk to customer service about calls from customers concerned about communications. You might also set up dummy accounts and then keep a log and accumulate the communications as they arrive. Perhaps a combination of these methods will work best for your organization.

Once you’ve accumulated all the customer communications, analyze and compare them from a customer’s point of view. Do the messages make sense? Are they likely to cause confusion? Do they arrive at the right time? Is the tone of the communication consistent? Can you spot redundant or unnecessary communications? Mixed messages? Differing terminology? All these conditions might exist.

After the Audit

A customer communication audit might suggest that a company drop some messages, combine them, change timing, or modify the content. The result can be lowered document generation and delivery expense, reduced calls to customer service, or increased customer retention.

Most of the emphasis in document operations focuses on how to process the work efficiently and at low cost. Little attention is devoted to why and when the documents are created. A customer communication audit can identify discrepancies or opportunities and generate benefits for your organization.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at www.printmailconsultants.com and www.pmccontentservices.com. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.