This chart from a recent Economist Unit report# shows how most companies (57%) are still relying on their website as their main communication tool, followed by e-mail (37%). Only 27% are using social media, with just 13% using mobile apps.
That mix will change over the next three years. Companies in the survey say social media will become their number-one channel (43%) and their use of apps will leap fourfold.
For that to happen, organizations will need to develop a more robust infrastructure on the inside — systems that talk to each other and people who work together, no matter the channel or job function. Winning companies understand how digital transformation drives business value, and are able to justify the changes needed.
The biggest challenge for marketers so far is lack of certainty as to which channels and technologies will dominate. Right behind it is the challenge of balancing the need to respond to individual feedback with the need to perceive and respond to emerging trends across market segments.
That is only half the battle, because digital transformation requires that organizations fundamentally rethink how they communicate to connect with customers.
Jumping into any channels with the same promotions, showing up only to push products and services, and not being appropriate to the nature of the request or culture of the network and community are a recipe for frustration on both sides of the conversation.
Better ways to reach customers
Start with the support experience, and by setting realistic expectations. Service is the bridge to connection, because it is ongoing. This can be done by using a common platform to communicate.
Even coming up with a useful idea will not work when the tool is just dropped on the customer's lap. However, when companies gather the information they need to understand their customers better and then interact on channels customers use, the results can be impressive.
An example from the report:
Opower, a software company, works with utility firms that want to help homeowners manage their energy use.
Historically, this kind of “demand response” programme has fallen flat. To work, a customer must install a one-way device in his home that lets a utility company control his energy use in exchange for monthly discounts.
In the US, the industry spends around US$700m a year on such schemes; in 2012, only 7% of US households signed up.
Taking a different approach, Opower uses a mix of cloud-connected devices, mobile apps, data and traditional engagement tools like direct mail and phone.
It crunches data from more than 120 different sources—including the customer’s utility company—to create personalised tips on how the customer can reduce her energy bills.
Some of those messages are about long-term use trends— “did you know, you used more power last month than your neighbours?” Others reward customers who act immediately.
A good way to provide a consistent experience is by making it easy for customers to interact with products and services from any device.
For some brands this may mean developing an app. Native apps are a good way to go for sending and receiving massive amounts of data and providing speed. Apps utilize smartphone features and offer better personalization.
Brands with limited budgets may want to go the responsive design route, which leverages one code base to work across devices and is universally accessible.
Other highlights from the report:
- Organizations need to invest in technologies that connect customer-facing employees with customers and with one another. More than 71% of top-performing businesses have invested in one or both of these areas, compared with 60% of other firms. I am reminded of an example with an airline that experienced a long delay and employees at the gate had no other way of knowing what was going on but to call in. A gap in delivery that could have changed how the company managed communications for 5 hours, with associated issues.
- The most effective technologies for connecting a business with its partners will improve the quality of innovation and reduce the cost of collaboration. Top-performing companies more likely to invest in these areas—62% of them have made such investments, compared with just 46% of other firms. In addition to driving traffic recognition, and transactions to the business, APIs allow an organization to distribute content, including integrating with partners.
- Only a minority of the companies in the survey currently have connected products on the market. Many are investing in the underlying technologies, with top performers taking the lead: 44% have invested, compared with just 31% of other companies. Today companies are using systems to manage relationships. These systems will transform into the systems they use to collaborate with those relationships.
Reorienting a business to customer intimacy takes leadership from the top. The report highlights how the CEO of leading companies is more likely to take personal responsibility for redefining how the company connects with customers, employees, and partners (47% vs. 37%).
[source: Economist Unit]
Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.