If it has become a cliché that Covid-19 fast-tracked digital transformation, it’s true not just of companies but their customers too. Before the coronavirus pandemic led to lockdowns and restrictions, there was an assumption that only a certain group of people were so-called ‘digital natives’, but that’s all changed. After the experience of the past year, technology is the medium for all kinds of customers and companies to interact with each other.
“Now, everyone has adapted to digital media in the way we communicate with family and friends and in addition to the way we do business,” says Mark Grainger, VP of sales for Europe at Engage Hub, a company that specialises in customer engagement using data. He was speaking at a recent webinar hosted by Three Ireland which looked at the latest trends in messaging, how customer expectations are changing, and how companies can respond.
“We thought, pre-pandemic, that we knew who the digital natives were. Now all ages and backgrounds are digitally savvy. That has certainly had an impact on how businesses adapt,” said Grainger.
Enabling 24/7 interaction
“Customers expect to interact with businesses 24/7. They want to be able to get what they’re looking for without necessarily speaking with an advisor. They want to interact with a mobile app or through other digital means.” Many types of businesses have felt this effect first-hand, from financial services, and logistics to retail and waste disposal, Grainger says.
The best way is to take an iterative approach as a "low friction" way of becoming more digital
Fortunately, despite the rapid progress of the past year, it’s not too late for companies to catch up with digital developments and improve how they engage with customers.
According to Grainger, the best way is to take an iterative approach as a “low friction” way of becoming more digital. Instead of contacting customers by letter and post, they can start to replace this communication with text messages or email. Once the interaction uses digital technology, it becomes easier for companies to start automating the process of sending messages. It also helps them to get rich data about those customers, to understand their behaviour patterns better and react to them better.
Enhanced efficiency and experience
Another way to improve communication with customers is to offer online self-service that lets them carry out some tasks themselves, like checking the status of an order or managing their account. This can reduce queue times for a company’s contact centre, for example, while giving customers the ability to get what they’re looking for quickly and conveniently.
It's important for companies to make sure every interaction feels part of a journey
Doing things this way, companies achieve two goals: increasing their operational efficiency and improving their customers’ experience. “Using the customer’s preferred communications channel is hugely important in building trust,” Grainger says. Depending on the customer, that channel might be text message, email, website chat, or even social media.
It’s important for companies to make sure every interaction feels part of a journey; nothing is more frustrating than when someone calls a company and has to repeat the same information many times on the same call. Businesses need to make sure they don’t treat different communications channels as silos but as a single, integrated whole.
Ian Flynn, business product manager for communications and collaboration with Three, said companies don’t need to invest in expensive hardware to get a multichannel platform that helps them to engage with customers. 3Communicate enables companies to build customer-focused messaging, is easy to use, and because it’s hosted in the cloud, it can scale to handle large volumes of messages.
Automated messaging saves time
On the webinar, Paul Mulhall, communications and digital marketing manager at Greyhound Recycling, explained how the company sends out millions of text messages to its customers every month, such as reminders to put out their bins the night before collection. This used to be a manual process that involved updating Excel files, and uploading each different message while testing to make sure the right one was going to the right customer group on the right collection day.
It gave us a real focus on digital transformation and the power it could have
“I always had to have time available to make sure I was sending out those messages,” said Mulhall. And as long as the process relied on one person, that was a risk if they weren’t available, or had made a mistake. Looking for a solution to make the process more automated, Greyhound began using 3Communicate, the multi-channel communications platform.
Now, Mulhall estimates he has saved at least six hours a week in manual effort managing and maintaining the messages and the data they use. “When you consider what you can do in that time, it’s almost a full working day,” he says.
Success with 3Communicate has been the catalyst for Greyhound to think differently about how it engages with its customers. “Once you begin this journey, it shouldn’t stand alone on SMS. It can integrate on so many systems,” said Mulhall. “It gave us a real focus on digital transformation and the power it could have.”
To find out how 3Communicate can help your business, visit our website to learn more.
Ian Flynn is business product manager for Communications and Collaboration