Cover Story: Let Customers Be Your Guide
Incorporating these insights has improved the customer relationship dramatically, according to Stein. So much so that a company that once had very low engagement is now finding evangelists. He emphasizes, "Because the customer experience is so good, it's not just that people renew. You get the evangelists that come out; people start talking about your business. When all these things happen, the benefits far outweigh, 'Does the extra person renew?'"
"Per the VOC," Roman says, "we realized that there was no single medium that should be the mainstay of this year-round communication. And per the opt-in preferences, we needed to understand how different people wanted to be communicated with. What evolved from that is a preference- driven, multichannel strategy that encompassed direct mail, email, e-newsletters, e-tips and customer service-oriented telephone touches integrated per the preferences that people were identifying."
"I think what's been most important to us," Stein explains, "is integrated direct marketing." Depending on the customer's preferences, HMS is bringing the different elements of electronic marketing and other channels to every point it has contact with a customer, from the welcome book to claims resolution.
For example, capturing customer contact preferences allowed HMS to market to certain segments through outbound telesales integrated with direct mail campaigns, "each customized to align with the tone and messaging that customers said would be most effective when asked during the VOC," according to Stein. These produced big wins, raising renewal rates by as much as 75 percent.
HMS' revamped contact strategy makes recording opt-in a priority from its earliest customer communications. Stein is testing a direct mail response piece that goes along with the warranty welcome booklet (which has replaced the fulfillment kit in HMS' post-VOC contact strategy).
HMS is also looking at outbound phone calls as a way to retrieve opt-in data, and made that a priority of all in-bound communications. "We're trying to be proactive so we can utilize that information rather than just waiting for customers to come to us—like in a claims situation—which is the industry standard."