Thirty years ago, customer communications were relatively straightforward. Business-critical documents, such as letters, invoices, and contracts, were sent and received through physical mail. As technology evolved – from the introduction of the fax machine in the 1980s and email in the 1990s to mobile devices and social media in more recent years – it has increasingly influenced how businesses communicate with their customers.
With so many channels available to communicate with your customers, how do you determine the right channel? Read on to learn about the various channels and how to choose the right ones to communicate with your customers.
What are customer communication channels?
Customer communication channels are the various mediums by which organisations connect with their customers. There are two main categories of channels:
- traditional (offline) channels such as print
- digital (online) channels such as live chat, text messaging, email and social media
Traditional channels have existed for several decades, while digital channels have emerged in the last two decades as technology has evolved.
How to choose the right customer communication channels?
To successfully engage with customers, businesses need to contact them at the right time in the right way with the right message.
With so many channels available to communicate with customers, how many channels do you need to support and how do you choose the right ones?
It’s crucial to support as many communication channels as you can effectively manage to ensure that you’re communicating with your customers on their preferred channels.
Research shows that businesses that interact with their customers via multiple touchpoints and in accordance with their communication preferences achieve better business results. A higher customer satisfaction index leads to a greater likelihood of customer advocacy and willingness to share that experience with others:
We all use a range of communications channels today. Some customers have preferences on how they wish to receive information (they may have gone ‘all digital’ or prefer all print) many prefer particular channels for specific communications. They may prefer to receive their monthly statement through the post but an order confirmation by email.
The appropriate communication channel to use depends on the type of message you are delivering and the target audience for that message. A few things to consider:
- Determine the kind of message you’re sending.
- Is your message formal or informal?
- Is the information you need to convey time sensitive?
- Is the information being communicated sensitive or confidential?
- Does your message require a response?
The answers to these questions will help determine the best channel to deliver your message.
- Know your audience
The communication channel that you choose should align with your customers’ preferences. After all, if you choose a channel that your customers don’t use, your customers won’t get the message and that will result in frustration.
It’s also important to consider that channel preferences may vary based on the nationality of your audience or the generation of your audience.
To learn more about managing the communication demands of different generations download a copy of our complimentary eBook: Managing the CX Demands of 5 Generations.
6 online and offline customer communication channels explained
- Live chat lets you interact with customers directly through your website. Live chat ensures a quick response to customer queries and can be offered 24x7 to support your customers.
- Chatbots are similar to live chat, but your customers chat with a bot instead of a live person on your website. Chatbots are useful to answer common questions. If the customer wishes to speak to a team member, a chatbot can connect them to a customer service representative.
- Social Media is a must-have communication channel as it is widely used. Customers often interact with brands via social media platforms by asking questions or leaving comments on posts.
- Email is one of the most popular communication channels and is one that most customers are comfortable with. Make sure to respond promptly to queries received via email.
- Text messaging (SMS) is gaining in popularity as many customers have smartphones. Text messaging works well for sending bill payment reminders as a courtesy.
- Despite the rise of digital, printed communications continue to play an important role in the channel mix, delivering a unique impact. Physical communications are engaging and help to overcome digital fatigue.
Regardless of which communication channels you decide to support, make sure to utilise an omnichannel communication strategy in order to deliver a superior customer experience.
Use an omnichannel communication strategy to maximise results
Today’s customer is knowledgeable, empowered, and demanding. The rise of mobile and social media gives the average customer the ability to access and share information anytime, anywhere.
Customers use multiple devices and online sources to buy products and interact with brands. A customer may first come across a product through a social media ad, check it out on the company website, and purchase it in a physical store.
This is where organisations can set themselves apart from the competition. Instead of treating each device and each interaction separately and fracturing the customer journey, organisations need technology that will help them embrace omnichannel engagement.
An omnichannel customer communications strategy enables organisations to deliver a consistent experience to customers across multiple channels. This approach allows consumers to have a seamless brand experience as content is optimised for every channel and device. Businesses using an omnichannel approach enable consumers to migrate from channel to channel in a consistent and seamless way.
Some of the benefits of an omnichannel communications approach include:
- Meet (or exceed) customer expectations - Give them an experience they expect to create long-term loyalty.
- Make a greater impact – Trigger a more rapid response with relevant personalised messaging.
- Gain customer insight - Learn which channels are most popular with your customers and focus your investments on developing those channels.
- Communicate smarter – Make use of the data and insight and adjust communications to meet your customers’ desired content, cadence, and channel.
As we’ve covered in this article, there are several channels you can use to communicate with your customers. The key is to deliver consistent, seamless experiences no matter the channel, and to enable customers to complete transactions how and where they want. Omnichannel customer communications are the way to achieve this.