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Sustainability and customer experience (CX) have become important priorities for organisations, with both having a growing impact on customer acquisition and loyalty. Lucy Klinkenberg-Matthews, Head of Sustainability for Paragon Customer Communications (PCC), explains how the latest technologies can help enterprises deliver enhanced CX while improving their sustainability credentials.

Though sustainability and customer experience might look like they belong on different agendas, changes in consumer behaviour have coupled them together. Increasing public awareness of social and environmental issues has given consumers a clearer understanding of the impact of their purchasing habits and how their buying power can influence brands to become more sustainable and bring about positive change.

Across all sectors, there has been a rising demand for sustainable products and services, with Millennials and Generation Z, in particular, seeking brands that share their values. Indeed, with information widely available online, researching a brand’s environmental and social credentials has, for many, become a routine part of the purchasing process.

For today’s experience-led consumers, sustainability is a vital strand of CX. According to KMPG’s ‘Customer Experience in the New Reality’ report, 2020, 56% of consumers take an organisation’s environmental and social practices into account when making a purchasing decision[1]. Deloitte, meanwhile, reports that in 2020, 34% of UK consumers chose brands and 28% abandoned brands based on their sustainability credentials[2].

Anticipating and managing sustainability regulatory change

It’s not just with consumers where sustainability is having an effect; for regulated industries such as financial services and insurance increasingly stringent governance means there is a growing requirement to offer greener experiences, while at the same time complying with regulation and meeting government expectations.

From a communication standpoint, this means managing a careful balancing act between compliance and good customer outcomes. Not only will organisations have to reduce the environmental impact of communications, but also provide more detailed regulatory reporting and review processes on everything from how they match green products to clients, to how they undertake marketing activities.

Achieving clarity and a positive customer experience with communications is vital, and a key element is offering an opti-channel experience – one which is driven by data such as past channel choice and customer behaviour predictions – to ensure the optimal channels are utilised both from a CX and sustainability perspective.

For instance, if enterprises are seeking to deploy digital platforms to enhance their green credentials, it has to be a smart digital shift to deliver maximum environmental impact and match consumer preferences.

Take email marketing as an example. While many brands see this digital communication as the ultimate answer to the sustainability question, research has actually revealed that if everyone in Britain sent one fewer email a day, the environmental benefit would equate to removing tens of thousands of flights from the sky every year – meaning the sustainability impact still needs to be considered.

Making sustainable change 

Whether improving their social, environmental or governance practices, there are many ways organisations can achieve greater sustainability. Across the spectrum of sectors, we are seeing more businesses publishing Net Zero targets across their value chains, measuring social value, phasing out the use of plastics, using recycled materials as they strive to support a Net Zero and circular economy.

One area where organisations can have an impact on sustainability is customer communications. It is a process that starts with measuring the carbon and social footprints of their digital and traditional communications to calculate their impact and find effective ways to make improvements.

A shift from traditional printed letters, which typically has a higher lifecycle carbon footprint, to emails, can result in a significant reduction. Indeed, even reducing the number of emails being sent can have positive outcomes. According to Ovo Energy, the 64 million unnecessary “thank you” emails the UK sends each day adds over 23,000 tonnes of carbon to the national footprint[3].

Of course, not only does taking decisive action help to deliver essential environmental improvements; it enables organisations to incorporate sustainability within customer experience and demonstrate their sustainability credentials to a wider audience. In doing so, they can improve their reputation, become more appealing to consumers, attract and retain talent and seek partnerships with organisations that hold like-minded values – all of which, ultimately, contributes to increased revenue.

Sustainable communications

For organisations wishing to provide customers with greener, and socially responsible experiences, modern technology opens the door to delivering greater sustainability. The latest technologies enable companies to use digital communications channels in place of traditional paper-based ones and provide customers with low-carbon services in the form of chatbots, apps, virtual assistants, augmented reality and even robo-advisors.

Furthermore, by adopting digital platforms that can integrate data management, financial transactions and customer interactions, enterprises are able to develop an adaptable omnichannel delivery model that is both seamless and sustainable. In doing so, they can deliver better services and experiences.

Banks, for example, have used these platforms to develop more sustainable customer service. While the convenience of digital technology means customers don’t need to visit branches as often, those customers that still desire person-to-person interactions can use channels like online chat and video to access human-delivered advice and support.

Centralising Customer Communications

While these technologies bring significant benefits, putting them in place can be a challenge. The most effective and efficient way to achieve this is to deploy a customer communications management (CCM) platform that can provide a single, centralised, communications delivery model. Adopting this ‘one-platform approach’ provides organisations with the delivery infrastructure they need to support truly frictionless CX across the spectrum of digital and traditional channels.

A vital feature that overcomes obstacles for many businesses is the ability of the latest CCM platforms to facilitate transformation by integrating with legacy systems. These platforms can, for example, unify data across all touchpoints, something beyond the capabilities of many legacy systems but which is critical to mapping customer journeys and seamlessly delivering the right messages at the right times via the customers’ preferred channels.

By ensuring the appropriate channels are utilised the first time, brands can minimise the need for a follow-up, in turn, reducing the environmental impact of communications.

A fully integrated suite of communications solutions can also help organisations respond quickly to shifting sustainability regulatory requirements, facilitating rapid changes to data sets and messaging, allowing them to keep customers abreast of new regulation and how it affects them.

From a sustainability perspective, the latest CCMs are intrinsically eco-friendly. The unifying of systems and data, for example, makes communications far more energy-efficient compared to siloed systems and, as they enable enterprises to monitor their communications’ carbon emissions, they provide detailed insights to help mitigate environmental impact even more.

With sustainability and customer experience becoming inextricably intertwined, the need to deliver more sustainable communications has never been greater. Today, many organisations are seeking a communications partner with a shared sustainability vision; a partner with the experience to help them deploy net-zero emissions technologies and drive their long-term sustainability goals.

Create seamless, sustainable customer experiences that go beyond expectations by contacting Paragon Customer Communications today: www.paragon-cc.co.uk

[1] https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/01/customer-first-insights-home.html

[2] https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/sustainable-consumer.html

[3] https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-newsroom/press-releases/2019/november/think-before-you-thank-if-every-brit-sent-one-less-thank-you-email-a-day-we-would-save-16433-tonnes-of-carbon-a-year-the-same-as-81152-flights-to-madrid.html

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