5 Best Practices for Adding Customer Communication Channels
Sophisticated marketers are adept at using multiple channels to reach customers with personalized messages. It's practically second nature for us to consider how best to communicate with our customers. But how often do we stop and ask, "How do my customers want to communicate with my brand?"
The answer is critical. Nothing short of your brand loyalty could be at risk. This claim may seem exaggerated, but a new study from inContact and Harris Interactive, conducted among 2,191 U.S. adults aged 18 year or older, presents a compelling case.
First, the study found that 56 percent of all U.S. adults are willing to consider switching brands based on customer service options. That's right, half of your customers may change brands if they're not happy with how they can contact you. Furthermore, customers between the ages of 18 and 44 are even more likely to move on. Sixty-four percent of this age group said they'd consider a switch.
If that's not compelling enough, consider this: 63 percent of U.S. adults indicated that brands that don't offer options for communication other than the 1-800 number seem outdated.
Since when was being outdated a preferred brand attribute? Today, offering a variety of communication channels in addition to a 1-800 number isn't a nice to have, it's a must.
In addition, 86 percent of U.S. adults expect brands to offer flexible timing and multiple options to interact with customer service. Flexible and multiple customer service options should be a given. Customers expect service to be designed to meet their needs. After all, it is customer service!
Get involved in the adoption of new customer service channels
Limited customer service options may motivate your customers to switch brands. Once customers switch, it's tough to win them back. So, cultivate that customer loyalty you worked so hard to build. Get involved in the adoption of new customer service channels.
Here are five best practices for adding new customer channels:
1. Ask your customers how they want to communicate with you. The Harris study also found that 84 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 think that apps for mobile devices are an important method of communication. Yes, we're going mobile and we're going fast.
Perhaps your customers want to engage with you through a mobile app, online chat, text messaging or social media, in addition to popular methods like email and a 1-800 number. Find out what channels they prefer.
2. Harness the power of the cloud. Adding preferred channels could be an enormous effort. The power of the cloud, however, makes it easier to experiment with additional customer service channels. Rather than requiring overwhelming changes to internal infrastructure and systems, the cloud provides flexibility and future readiness.
3. Test new channels. Just as testing new marketing programs is a best practice, so is testing new customer service channels prior to a full rollout. If you're adding more than one communication channel, consider testing them one at a time or in tandem. Remember that each additional channel will impact your holistic customer service offering.
4. Listen first to social networking sites. Before adding customer service on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, listen first. Get a feel for what sort of feedback and issues are being posted and plan ways to best respond. Once you launch customer service, don't jump in and try to control what your customers say. Instead, have transparent conversations with customers in an effort to create personalized, one-to-one experiences.
5. Harmonize. Now that you've added new ways for customers to reach you, it's important to harmonize communications. There's nothing worse than a customer reaching out, say, via online chat, and then having to re-explain his or her question over the phone. Lack of integration on your end can erase the benefits of meeting the customer in their channels of choice. This is another area where the cloud can help. The cloud unites interactions, creating a single flow of information to speed resolutions and increase customer satisfaction.
This brings to mind another Harris Study finding: 82 percent of U.S. adults agreed that the ability to contact a company via a variety of methods increases their brand satisfaction. Brand satisfaction is a vital precursor to brand loyalty, so consider expanding your customer communication options today.
Mariann McDonagh is the chief marketing officer at inContact, a provider of cloud contact-center software and contact-center agent optimization tools. Mariann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.