Switched on companies are racing ahead using the power of visual to drive customer response, says Paul Sweeney of contact centre tech leader VoiceSage

When it comes to customer communications, marketing professionals are text focused.

That’s fine – but all too often at the expense of the most fundamental style of communication of all: the visual.

The good news is, finally, visually-oriented marketing is making a return – in the form of what’s termed visual push messaging: a means of offering customers all the information they need in one hit and on one screen.

Why? Because the benefits are manifold. You can easily communicate with your audience via engaging and appealing visual outreach that fosters customer response and interaction at any stage in the communication process.

Push messaging delivers a quick, light touch interaction that lets you and your customers interact at a fast pace and in a way they find appealing. There is a lot of research and thinking to support this trend. For example, JP Rangaswami, chief scientist at Salesforce.com and former chief scientist at BT, has got a lot of attention with his bold prediction that we are overdue a move from today’s text-heavy Internet to a more visual one. Indeed for Rangaswami and his fellow futurists, visual is set to become the default digital communication method.

Our new default comms mechanism?

Electronic communications has previously tended to be a ‘press 1-press 2/yes-no’ style of engagement, even on the more sophisticated of platforms.

But as we can all see with the rise of sites like Pinterest, we are becoming more visually enabled in cyberspace. Pinterest is, after all, a way to capture the visual images members like – shopping, fashion, art or home décor – and so is very universal in its draw. You can be any nationality and from any background – but when you check out someone’s Pinterest postings, you can instinctively understand their styles, tastes, and interests. 

Visual push takes this one step further, as it also offers some significant advantages in terms of usability and ‘choice architecture’. Most menus systems offer 1-4 boxes, leaving a ‘blind’ set of future choices and options. We also often feel discomfort at “how long” this thing is going to take. 

Interactive visual presentation affords us the opportunity to make choices and see outcomes simultaneously. My favourite example of this is the New York Times Rent or Buy Graph and Calculator ( http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/buy-rent-calculator.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=0 ). As we make choices we can see outcomes. 
Yet the visual presentation we are discussing is much more sophisticated. You can see what the actual choice is; so, for a customer appointment using a visual message with a screen slider, the customer moves the slider to see all the time slots available. All you have to do is drag the slider and pull your finger away and the appointment is secured. Another example of this would be you like a delivery this morning at 11.00 at £7.50 cost, 13.00 for £7.50 cost, in the afternoon at £5.00 cost or tomorrow for £0 cost. We are trading off specific delivery slots against varying costs. 

That’s what I mean by a ‘one touch’ decision – a key design principle behind visual push messaging. Take the customer survey as an example. A lot of surveys via mobile tend to bore or frustrate customers. But add in visual and the ‘yes, no, give me a score’ options via the screen slider and this improves response dramatically. 

You can get this kind of visual interaction on nearly any phone by using an SMS message with a smart link in it and the landing page will open on any smartphone (and if you don’t have a smartphone, it will still give you a legible message, asking you to call or respond by SMS).

The bottom line: the capture rate of customers’ feedback with visual push technology is very high – with survey response rates reported at well over 20%. Any marketer will tell you that that’s impressive.

One touch decisions

If you can reach out to customers or prospects at the right time and give them a quick one-touch decision you are going to be a lot more effective in terms of managing relationships and getting good campaign results. That’s because working visually, thanks to its ease of use and universality, is a truly compelling way of offering people choices and getting immediate responses.

So you may be great at sending out text/SMS messages to customers. But if you are not linking them to visuals, you are missing out on a form of engagement that offers huge universal appeal and delivers very real results.

A picture is worth a thousand words. It really is true, and if you stop using 140 characters, you’ll soon be seeing that for yourself!

Paul SweeneyPaul Sweeney
Paul Sweeney is Director of Innovation at customer communications technology specialist VoiceSage. With over 20 years’ experience in research, new venture development, venture capital and outsourcing across the telecoms, Internet and technology sectors, Sweeney has been instrumental in shaping the company vision and direction. With particular expertise in software, SaaS (software as a service) and cloud technology, he leads VoiceSage’s product innovation and development, seeing through each new value proposition from concept stage right through to launching it on the international market.

Sweeney previously worked at Irish telecom leader Eircom, where he was responsible for new venture development. He has been an advisor on Product and Business Strategy to more than 40 start-ups. Prior to this, he worked as an Internet and telecommunications advisor to organisations including the Irish and UK economic development agencies, Vision consulting and Aventura.   He is also a strategic advisor to TSSG, an Irish-based, internationally recognised centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation, while also sitting on the advisory board of eComm, a leading forum for future communications.

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