By Tim Fujita-Yuhas, OpenMarket for Customer Experience Magazine
There’s a reason customer engagement strategies top the list of virtually every company’s marketing agenda, regardless of industry. Simply put, a business’ ultimate goal is to bring in revenue. You accomplish this by serving a need to meet consumer demand, and in order to get to point B, you must start at point A: engagement. There is no way of getting around this initial point of interaction, which justifies customer engagement’s place at the top of the business food chain. If we know both the starting point and end game, why isn’t every business successful? What separates the profitable from the faltering? The answer lies in the customer engagement strategy, and they’re not all created equal.
Recent surveys show 60 percent of customers have expressed that they prefer to engage with businesses via SMS text messaging. This can be attributed to its familiarity, convenience, simplicity, and real time connectivity.
More and more companies today are listening to what consumers want, and how they want it. In fact, 65 percent of companies said SMS is part of their business’ engagement strategy for 2017. However, just because you have the right tool doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to use it. Like all crafts, it’s best to consult an expert before getting started. It makes the difference between a sailing ship, and a sinking one. Or in this case, it could mean a successful strategy versus a failing one.
To build a winning customer engagement strategy and avoid the pitfalls, here’s a quick blueprint:
Step 1: Identify Your Customer
The first step in building a relationship with your customer is knowing who they are. A business must have a grasp on who its audience is, what they care about, and how it can deliver to meet their demands in valuable ways. This doesn’t mean identifying a high-level demographic profile – you have to dig deeper.
Providing a uniform service and experience to your customers would undoubtedly be the best use of your company’s time, but each customer is unique and expects invested, exclusive, and personalized experiences from their preferred businesses.
How do you deliver on this? Show them empathy. This means not only communicating with them on their preferred channel, but taking the time to create memorable interactions that are valuable to each and every client exactly when they need it. Examples include sending critical appointment reminders, password authentications, feedback surveys, or special offers on your product – all delivered at the right time for optimal engagement with your business.
Business-to-consumer text messaging brings a wide variety of benefits to your interaction with a customer. Unlike the old days of lengthy voice calls, spam-like messages, and putting your customer on hold, you’re now just a short simple message away. SMS brings instant, personal and relevant information directly into the pocket of your customer.
Step 2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Respect is something your customers want and deserve. In fact, it’s the only way to keep them around. When you’re there for your customer when they want to reach out, it strengthens the overall loyalty and brand advocacy in return. You achieve this connection through setting and acknowledging your individual customers’ boundaries. Sure, engaging with your customer via automated, opt-in SMS brings a scalable way to deliver your message—but you increase the potential for your delivery model to backfire.
Companies must strike a balance to avoid running into the tricky situation of a customer’s complaint that they are receiving an ‘influx of spam text messages’ that cannot be stopped despite efforts. There’s no excusing this type of marketing behavior.
To avoid customer aggravation, it’s essential your message is conveyed and delivered on a well-timed and relevant basis. Information overload only impedes upon a customer’s privacy and severs their desire to engage with the company on any level—in short, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth.
Whether it’s your company’s customer service model, or a hapless technical glitch, over-communication can negatively impact the relationship you’ve been building. It’s essential to prioritize awareness of individual customer preferences via opt-in/opt-out capabilities, and respecting the boundaries of interaction.
Step 3: Be One Step Ahead
If you’re beyond identifying and successfully engaging with your customer—what’s next?
One of the key perks of SMS is its ability to connect to a consumer instantaneously and cut through the noise – unlike email and voice calls. In fact, recent studies show the majority of text messages are opened within just 90 seconds.
If you’re a hospitality company and your customer has signed up to receive text message notifications on their upcoming hotel stay, don’t just shoot them a confirmation number. Be empathetic – a hotel guest has several needs upon checking into their hotel, so think ahead and provide them with a valuable interaction via SMS. For instance, SMS enables hotels to alert guests of their room number, the WIFI password, the code to text room service requests such as delivering extra towels, and more. This not only ensures customer needs are met, but it helps exceed expectations through exceptional personalized interactions and self-service experiences.
While 77% of consumers have a positive perception of a company that uses texting to interact with customers, misuse of the technology can tarnish the overall brand perception. When it comes to business-to-consumer communications, SMS offers an effective and innovative way to enhance the overall experience through empathetic interactions. But, be sure there is a clear line drawn between relevant, appropriate information, and un-personalized blanket messages.
When used appropriately, SMS can take a brand from unknown to a customer favourite.