Why Forward-Thinking Brands Must Use Customers’ Preferred Communication Channels
Effective customer communication can facilitate a product or service purchase, even if the company missed the mark on the first try. Imagine a previous customer has experienced a product issue or received unsatisfactory service. Not surprisingly, the customer wants to speak to a knowledgeable customer support associate who can quickly resolve their problem. To best meet their users’ needs, the business should go where their customers already are and meet the customer on their communication channel of choice.
5 Customer-Centric Communication Channels
In today’s digital communications landscape, customers engage with each other (and with businesses) via five popular channels. They frequently use voice, SMS/texting, social media, chatbots, and chat apps. Text messaging is the most widely used communication channel. Many customers find it convenient, extremely fast, and likely to elicit a quick response.
This legacy communication channel continues to be in demand. When speaking with a business customer support associate, a customer can engage in a real-time conversation. However, heavy call volumes mean customers often wait in impersonal virtual queues. In addition, extended wait times raise the business’ operating expenses.
Short message service (or SMS) is also referred to as texting. Many businesses use this quick, ubiquitous communication channel to deliver appointment reminders and delivery notices. Customers also love texting, as they can converse with a company at their convenience. In many cases, they receive an equally fast response.
Many consumers frequent social media in their personal lives. Premier social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter also offer business accounts. A business’s social media channel is ideal for engaging with its customers. However, the brand cannot control the two-way exchange. For example, a public complaint could negatively affect the business’s reputation.
In 2023, AI-enabled chatbots frequently engage with consumers on a business’ website or another platform. A virtual chatbot may adopt a human persona to handle routine questions and customer service problems. A human team member can step in to address complex issues. Chatbots enable businesses to offer 24/7 service without extra staffing expenses.
Two-way chat apps include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber. Because consumers frequently use chat apps for personal conversations, they’re happy to use these channels for business purposes.
How the Right Communication Channels Drive Positive Outcomes
Businesses that engage customers on their preferred channels can realize multiple benefits. These four positive outcomes help to enhance each customer’s overall brand experience.
Encourages Brand Loyalty
Building customer loyalty is a long game. First, companies should implement communications strategies that encourage customers to stay loyal to the company even in the face of competition.
Using customers’ preferred communication channels should be front and center. When customers can use their favorite channel to engage with a brand, they may perceive that the brand values their business. As a result, many consumers are incredibly loyal to a brand that takes this simple step.
Builds Trust and Reassurance
In the 21st century, consumers are increasingly impatient when dealing with businesses on customer service issues. This trend is likely an outgrowth of the COVID-19 pandemic-era eCommerce explosion.
During most of 2020, locked-down consumers often occupied themselves with endless online shopping excursions. They would typically receive their purchases in a couple of days. Today, these consumers have been trained to want immediate gratification, especially when trying to resolve product or service problems.
When a business invests in popular communication channels, it lays the groundwork for fast, efficient customer engagements. In turn, consumers appreciate that the brand has taken steps to honor their preferences.
Facilitates Mutually Beneficial Relationships
It’s well-known that cultivating a new customer is much more expensive than keeping an existing one. Companies that engage in omnichannel communication deliver the same customer experience regardless of the communication channel. Over time, many customers will regard the business with increased trust, enabling a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
Enables an Empathetic Marketing Strategy
Once a brand has discovered a user’s preferred channel, an astute marketing manager will use artificial intelligence (or AI) to develop (and deliver) a personalized marketing strategy for that customer. If the business tracks the customer’s buying behavior and previous purchases, the company can present new offerings the customer may like.
Mitto: This Omnichannel Leader Recommends Meeting Customers Where They Are
Positive, productive business-to-customer (B2C) communication is key to satisfying brand interaction. Ilja Gorelik, the Chief Operating Officer of telecommunications firm Mitto, emphasized that brands must devote substantial resources to their B2C engagements. If the brand doesn’t lay the groundwork for positive outcomes, its leaders effectively negate their efforts elsewhere.
“A business cannot attract and retain a customer if that customer doesn’t have positive experiences with the brand. Brand loyalty, conversions, evangelism, repeat purchases…none of these actions that enable a brand to grow are possible with unhappy customers.
“For brands today, ensuring they’re ‘getting it right’ with their digital customer communications is vital. It’s more or less the only way the two interact these days,” he emphasized.
Customers Can Change Their Preferred Channels
Ilja Gorelik also noted that global customers often have decidedly different channel preferences. And sometimes, they want the flexibility to interact with a business on their current channel of choice.
“Global brands have global customers, each of which interacts with brands slightly differently. Some prefer to engage with brands on SMS and some on chat apps like WhatsApp and Viber. Some don’t have a preference. They want the ability to engage with a brand on whatever channel is most effective at that moment,” Ilja Gorelik remarked.
Enter the Omnichannel Revolution
The emerging “Omnichannel Revolution” refers to an innovative communications framework. Businesses that use an omnichannel communications infrastructure deliver a quality customer experience on every communication channel. If/when customers switch to a different channel, the new team member will already be aware of the customer’s product or service issue.
Mitto’s decade-long omnichannel development work led to its recognition as an industry leader. The company’s sophisticated engagement technology is matched by ever-evolving messaging enablement tools. Today, major enterprise brands are joined by mobile network operators (or MNOs). Both entities are adopting Mitto’s innovative communications approach.
Mitto’s Evolving Communications Mission
Switzerland-based Mitto has been progressing toward omnichannel communications for ten years. Ilja Gorelik presents the company’s mission and describes how the evolution has taken place.
“At Mitto, we’re on a mission to deliver reliable, high-quality communications between businesses and their customers every time…Our company was founded in 2013 with the specific aim of building a state-of-the-art Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS messaging platform, unrivaled in reliability, that could support the requirements of a new wave of A2P services.
“As the demand grew for enablement of omnichannel communications capabilities, we expanded our portfolio beyond SMS. [We] now include voice, chatbots, all major chat apps (WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, etc.), Google Business Messaging, RCS, myriad CRM and marketing platform integrations, and, most recently, pre-built tools for bulk campaigns and conversational support chats…Simply put, we make communication happen,” Ilja Gorelik remarked.
Two Forbes Communications Council Members Weigh In
Developing a deeper understanding of customers’ communication preferences enables a business to craft productive interactions with them. Two Forbes Communications Council members share insights on ways to learn about (and honor) these engagement choices.
Kristin Russel: Chief Marketing Officer at Symplr
Kristin Russel is an accomplished healthcare marketing executive who has scaled companies of all sizes. She currently serves as Symplr’s Chief Marketing Officer. Although Russel is well-versed in technology, she emphasizes that authentic connections and communications are still vital to reaching customers.
“Authentic communication and connection will always be in vogue and should be taken heavily into account when building relationships digitally. Transparency has certainly been a popular angle over the past few years, and stakeholders, customers, and employees almost expect that level of authenticity in today’s communication tactics. Remember to treat your audience as real people, not transactions,” Russel advised.
Sarah Lero: Director of Marketing at A.H. Huber
Sarah Lero is a skilled B2B marketing executive specializing in the construction industry. She currently handles brand awareness and other marketing initiatives at Kansas-based A.H. Huber, a nationally recognized general contractor. She advises businesses to notice how a customer responds to an inquiry.
“Most of the time, you can tell what someone’s preferences are by the way they respond. If you call someone and leave a voicemail, and they write you an email back, that shows they are more comfortable with email. I know some people think calling someone is the only way to get answers, but if someone does not want to talk on the phone, you could just be annoying them and hurting the relationship,” Lero emphasized.
Late-Adopter Businesses Risk Losing Customers
Companies that maintain limited communication channels are behind the curve. A business risks losing customers if it doesn’t adopt digital channels such as SMS/texting, chatbots, and chat apps. By taking an omnichannel communications approach, the company will be better able to engage on a 21st-century playing field.
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