In today’s hyper-connected world, customers not only expect businesses to communicate on-demand, they also want that communication to be fast, effective, and on the digital channels, they prefer.

With that in mind, businesses often look to new technology to help them do things smarter and faster. To build customer loyalty, reduce churn, and streamline efficiencies throughout the organisation.

But there’s no such thing as a ‘silver bullet’ solution. And in their haste to build the next big shiny all-encompassing CRM system, many businesses fail to stop and assess whether they’re putting the cart before the horse.

After all, advanced solutions only work on a stable foundation. So, are you getting the basics right?

One size does not fit all

Most businesses think they know what their customers want. But on closer inspection, poorly segmented customer sub-groups mean missed opportunities to deliver highly targeted messages with focus on being experience-driven. Shockingly, less than 31% of companies qualify as experience-driven businesses.

Looking at the demographics and psychographics of your customer base isn’t just relevant to front-end marketing. It’s important for prolonging each customer’s lifetime value. According to Forester, companies that nail customer experience increase lifetime value by 1.6x. Getting this right, and communicating with customers successfully, requires that you need to understand:

  1. How do they like to be communicated with?
  2. When is the best time to get a response from them?
  3. How can you tailor your approach to make their life easier?

The more you drill down, the more seamless you can make your workflows with leads, clients and other stakeholders… making dealing with your company a positive experience for everyone.

Different strokes for different folks

While conversational messaging, chatbots and other technologies are certainly gaining traction as attractive communication channels, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to a broad customer base.

Some people might prefer to receive an email, some might prefer to text on-the-go. It sounds obvious, but individuals are, well, individuals. This may come down to demographics, regional variation, or even suitability depending on what service is being offered by the business. Irrespective of cause, customers should be empowered to be engaged on the channel that suits them.

For instance, communication preferences differ generationally. One study found that Millennials favour chatbots. Another survey found that 67% of Generation X shoppers find personalised emails with suggestions based on their interests and shopping history helpful.

People are more receptive to messages if they’re delivered in ways that feel comfortable to them. It’s up to your company to identify which channels your customers prefer.

The limitations of AI

Chatbots are on the rise as a cheap, fast and effective way to communicate what customers want, when it is convenient to them.

However, the clear drawback of AI is that it needs to learn from an incredible amount of data to work effectively. Therefore, while it’s great for simple requests, it cannot handle complex enquiries.

It’s possible to get stuck in an endless loop trying to get help from an AI, when all you really need is a human who can think objectively.

Automation: the quiet powerhouse

Particularly for larger organizations with big workforces, automatable processes are necessary to scale.  Automation’s single purpose is to let technology perform repetitive tasks, freeing up time for your people to focus on more important tasks that allow humans to do what they do best: working with creativity, empathy and critical thinking. In other words, providing a personal touch, which means a better customer experience.

Automation can be highly customised so that each cog triggers a cascade of communications and functions, designed to streamline customer messaging with back-end business functions to achieve the desired result.

Together with sophisticated segmentation, these triggers can be configured to communicate the right way, with the right people, at the right time. The omnichannel nature of an automated system means you can design a workflow that includes any combination of SMS, email, messaging apps, or traditional channels like post, into a ‘recipe’ that speaks to your audience segment on the channels they prefer.

Automated workflows are extremely customisable, offering ultimate flexibility in building highly tailored solutions. For example, a company could SMS their clients to notify of service outages, email them for bills, call them for upsells, and mail them their documents. Not only is the channel configured to suit the individual, it is also suited for the context.

All of this information can then be kept within the one system, allowing companies to keep track of the end-to-end customer journey. In siloed systems spread out across multiple platforms, it’s easy for customers to get lost in the shuffle. Systems that don’t speak to each other, such as email and post, often create holes in a customer’s digital narrative. This makes it frustrating for staff, and downright annoying for customers.

Final thoughts

Advances in technology are putting companies in closer touch with their customers than ever before, but before you get granular in your customer communication, you first need to have a solid foundation. This means having a platform that supports a range of two-way communication channels, shows you which channels different segments prefer, and makes it easy to automate customer journeys across those channels.

Getting the basics right doesn’t necessarily involve chatbots and complicated AI. It just means understanding what a customer is asking of you, and being able to respond to a simple request with minimal friction. After all, don’t we all just want to be listened to and understood?

Photo by Stephanie Liverani on Unsplash

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