In 2019, we’ve seen a number of brands look to simplify their communication channels in a bid to reconnect with their customers.
From Gucci opening six customer contact centres that will provide phone, email and live chat communications, to Lush deleting all of its social media channels in the UK – it seems that some organisations are going back to basics when it comes to their customer service. As AI and social media platforms are increasingly placing algorithms and automation between organisations and their customers, is the desire to get closer to them coming full circle?
Companies less audacious than Lush might be weary of turning off their social channels and turning instead to ‘legacy’ platforms such as email or the phone to engage with their customers. However, it’s important to look at how brands can, and should, embrace traditional communication channels to offer a more personalised customer experience, helping them reconnect with their audience in a genuine, human-to-human way.
Shortcomings of social media
Although social media has been hailed as an unavoidable staple of any communication strategy for brands, its limitations are starting to appear. For instance, an increasing number of studies are showing the adverse effects of social media on the mental health of users. From self-esteem issues to anxiety and ‘Fear of Missing Out’, it’s becoming apparent that these websites are not just the communication heaven they were sold as in the mid to late 2000s.
As a result, a rising number of Millennial or Generation Z customers are turning their backs on social media, either by completely deleting their accounts, or taking regular breaks from the most popular websites. This could mean that, in the future, social media will no longer be the number one channel for companies to reach younger audiences.
To counter this, we’re seeing some social media platforms take steps to make the feeds more wholesome. Recently Instagram and its parent company Facebook modified their algorithms to prioritise content from people users are close to – rather than branded content. Instagram also changed its format from chronological order to a system where order posts appear on timelines, meaning customers are much less likely to see native content from brands, and especially small business owners, who might not have the budget to promote paid-for content.
While social media was first considered the best way to get closer to customers as it allowed for a proximity and a dialogue that simply did not exist before, new sets of challenges are starting to appear for brands. They must start reconsidering the channels they previously used to interact with their customers if they want to build strong, long lasting relationships.
Back to basics
As companies strive to embrace innovation, especially in their customer relationship strategies, it’s important to remember that technology isn’t just creating new ways of communication through the internet – it has also completely transformed existing tools.
Phone systems, for example, have come a long way in recent years. While we tend to think of it as the archaic cable phone that takes hours to get us through to a customer service agent, technology has actually revolutionised it. New phone technology now allows companies to safely record data about their customers, enabling them to automatically know exactly who the customer is, what they are calling about and the products and services they have purchased with the company. They can also let brands get closer to the customer by automatically connecting them to a representative who knows their name and why they’re calling. The list goes on.
Being able to integrate a telephone system into overall customer support means brands can now make customer communications more seamless and easier. This removes barriers between brands and their customers by enabling them to build genuine relationships with their customers, providing a level of care that algorithms cannot enable on social media.
Reconnecting to customers
Thanks to the internet, consumers now have access to an apparent infinity of products, services and brands. Cutting through this noise is a challenge that can only be tackled with impeccable customer engagement, and this starts with getting closer to your customers. Recent studies have shown that customers now expect the same from brands as they do from their friends: reliability , authenticity, and the feeling like the brands ‘get’ them and what’s important to them at this point in their lives.
While social media allows for a quick dissemination of ideas and products, it cannot entirely replace the type of one-to-one communications that enable brands to truly serve their customers. Companies need to give the phone another chance and embrace it as a key part of the communications-mix of the future.