How Retailers Can Learn to Communicate on the Customer’s Terms

OpenMarket – August 11, 2016

Me-First Approach

For retailers, communicating with customers plays a key role in driving them to action. However, the unfortunate reality is that many brands are selfish when it comes to communication. They take a “me-first” approach and end up burning valuable bridges with customers who would have otherwise been profitable. The key to avoiding this mistake is to communicate on the customer’s terms.

The Right Way to Reach Customers

Today’s millennial customers – also known as “digital natives” – have a very specific set of desires. They want to communicate in ways that are convenient, flexible, and unobtrusive. Unfortunately, very few retailers understand this and end up overstepping their boundaries or failing to convey their messages.

There are right and wrong ways to reach millennial customers. It’s imperative that you understand both in order to be as effective as possible. While we’ll look at some specific tips and pointers later in this article, the ultimate takeaway is that digital natives prefer to communicate with brands via SMS and social media – not apps, email, and phone calls.

According to research we gathered and published in a Retail Week Guide, there are now 6.1 billion people worldwide using SMS-capable phones. Furthermore, 68 percent of 18-34 year olds rank SMS as the preferred means of communication with friends and family. The reasons people love SMS? For the majority, it’s the quality of the interaction that’s most important. Other reasons include reliable connectivity and low cost.

But does SMS translate over into business – and specifically retailers? The answer is yes. When asked about whether they like to receive text messages from retailers, 38 percent said they do, and another 40 percent said they do in certain instances.

In addition to SMS, today’s customers want brands to communicate with them via social media. A recent HubSpot study shows that 95 percent of millennials, 87 percent of Gen X’ers, and 70 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 60 expect brands to have a Facebook presence.

The same HubSpot study shows that communicating with brands via social media is a growing trend and preference. Large portions of the survey respondents reported complimenting brands, complaining about a brand, and requesting support via social media in the past five months.

The fact that customers like to communicate with retailers via SMS and social media isn’t a coincidence. The two share a lot of the same features and advantages. They both operate on the customer’s terms and are seen as mobile and unobtrusive. Whereas push message apps, phone calls, and even email are often too time-sensitive and/or demanding, SMS and social media unfold at a much simpler pace.

Three Tips and Pointers for Maximizing Results

As you can see, customers don’t want to be viewed as objects or assets. They want to have engaging and meaningful conversations with brands. Keeping this in mind, let’s check out a few tips regarding how you can effectively leverage SMS and social media for best results.

  1. Go Easy on the Text Messages

While consumers love SMS, there’s a fine line between what they consider normal and what they consider excessive. According to our Retail Week Guide findings, 25 percent report they would be happy to receive texts from retailers once every few months. That number drops to 22 percent for communication on a monthly basis. Finally, just 3 percent say they’re okay with being contacted via SMS once per day. The moral of the story here is don’t overdo it.

  1. Move Customer Service Agents to Social

There’s certainly a place for phone-based customer service – and will be for the foreseeable future – but the reality is more and more customers are gravitating to social media for help. If you aren’t there to meet them, somebody else will.

In order to reach your customers on their terms, you need to move some of your customer service agents to social media. This allows you to control interactions with customers and engage them in meaningful ways.

“Customers are decreasingly tolerant of gruff or unknowledgeable phone agents who have to escalate and re-channel to provide resolution,” marketing expert Paul Johns explains. “Social customer service breaks down former boundaries of rigid communication methods and vocabulary, and allows your company to engage customers on their own turf, and in their language.”

  1. Invest in Tools and Training

Simply saying you want to transition to a new customer service structure isn’t enough. You can’t have a noticeable impact without first giving your employees the right tools and appropriate amount of training.

As far as tools go, actively identify SMS resources and social media tools that allow you to be as efficient as possible. Communicating with customers via these mediums can be time-intensive, so any opportunity to streamline tasks is an opportunity you need to take.

However, make sure you don’t sacrifice engagement for automation. It’s easy to automate social media, but this often decreases the quality of communication. Keep this in mind and seek out balance.

Training is also very important. “Some of the ideals of a progressive social customer service structure may be new to your employees, and as such, implementing training exercises to prepare them for the new systems and methodology is a sound investment,” Johns points out.

Contact OpenMarket Today

At OpenMarket, we know exactly what customers want. What we’ve found is that SMS is the most effective, versatile, and engaging mode of communication available to retailers.
When you work with us, you gain access to one of the world’s largest mobile solution providers, meaning you can reach the most mobile subscribers possible.

For more information regarding our SMS messaging solutions, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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