Communication drives conversion. It moves customers from browsers to buyers, delighting them through each step of the purchase journey when done correctly. In a retail operation, these conversations lead to satisfied customers, those that begin to expect a level of excellence that only you can offer.
Communication, though, isn’t always accessible. It takes focus and planning, both of which are made even more complicated in a world where things are changing faster than retailers can keep up.
During a pandemic, communication is the front door through which your customers enter. Whether they choose to walk through it a second time is almost entirely reliant on your ability to reach them, and to speak their language.
Here’s what we know.
Communication is Complex
Our preferred method of communication and information delivery has changed significantly in the past century. It began as a slow evolution from newspapers and periodicals to radio, the telephone, and later television. Things seemingly went into hyperdrive with the advent of the internet.
And though digital communication has been the consumer-preferred conversation medium for more than a decade, how we reach customers seemingly changes year-by-year. In 2011, for example, 54 percent preferred email as the primary channel for customer service. In 2019, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said they’d happily switch to a company that offered text messaging as a communication channel.
To complicate matters further, not only are we always on the lookout for the best ways to reach customers online, but we still have to serve those who prefer face-to-face interactions (23 percent in 2017), phone calls, or physical mailing.
How you tailor these communication strategies varies based on who you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to accomplish. Still, one constant is that being prepared to communicate with your customers means being human, no matter which platform or tool you’re using to reach them.
Don’t Forget Generation Next
When businesses hear “younger audiences,” they typically think of social media. However, it’s not just about implementing a social strategy on Facebook or capturing email addresses; it’s reaching your customers where they are — whether that’s TikTok or their front door.
Overlooking younger audiences — whether that’s millennials or Gen Z — is a mistake. While they bring significant complications to your communication strategy, they’re young, influential and have disposable income.
Reaching younger generations is often best accomplished through a combination of social channels and messenger-type tools. Phone calls are reserved for emergencies and rarely answered by either millennials or Gen Z. Instead, they expect customer service from the brands they deal with to respect their time rather than leaving them in near-infinite calling loops.
To delight younger generations, give them the option to ping you with a quick tweet or a text message. Even a chatbot on a popular social platform is favorable to picking up the phone, sitting on hold, and then being passed from department to department.
But it’s not just about access; it’s also availability. Whether reasonable or not, younger generations expect that these inquiries are answered promptly.
This is where businesses are at odds with their customers. For companies, the average response time to a support inquiry is around 12 hours — and the slowest took eight days! Yet, in a survey of 3,200 customers, 88 percent expected a response within 60 minutes. Nearly a third (30 percent) expected a response in 15 minutes or less.
Everyone wants to reach this audience, but few are willing to put in the work needed to capture them. But the rewards go to those willing to put in the work. A 2017 survey showed that 60 percent of millennials and 55 percent of Gen Zers stick with brands once they find one they like.
Closing the Gap
No matter who you’re trying to reach, communication is of the utmost importance. And we’re not just talking about your initial efforts, but the follow-ups and customer support offered post-purchase. To attract a customer, you must first understand them. That means understanding not only where and how to reach them, but how best to serve them after the sale, and when (or how) to market to them again after the initial purchase cycle.
Creating and cultivating a multichannel communication approach is, in effect, building brand loyalty through the profound respect of your customers and their unique needs. Whether they want a firm handshake and a smile, or a quick text message, each customer is different, and your ability to reach them starts with discovering when and how they’d prefer to be reached.
What matters most is creating a balance that captures the hearts and minds of both those who desire the efficiency of digital communication or the empathy of a human voice.
Anand Chandrasekaran is executive vice president of product at cloud contact center provider Five9.