Customer engagement: Bridging the gap, before it becomes a gulf
It’s a fact: businesses today are not communicating with their customers as well as they think they do. When it comes to customer communications, recent research from Twilio has revealed the enormity of the gulf between consumer expectations, and the way businesses perceive the communications experience they’re offering to customers.
Lots of Apps
Today, the average consumer lives a very digital life and has, on average, between 60-90 apps on their mobile phone. These apps have helped to drastically enrich how we interact and communicate with each other, and with businesses. They’ve also helped to make data more readily available than ever before – data which businesses can and should collate in order to learn more about the way in which their customers are communicating.
With this data, gaining a comprehensive understanding of consumer habits may seem straightforward or easily attainable. But, it is not. With consumers using so many apps independently of each other (on average around 30 a month), there remain gaps in the understanding any business can hope to obtain using its data alone.
The communications experience has subsequently become disjointed, and the consequences of this reality are proving very costly.
Then and now
Ten years ago this knowledge gap might likely have been far more manageable, because the expectations of the average consumer were much lower. The rise of the on-demand economy, spearheaded by the likes of Uber, Task Rabbit and Lyft, has changed this, and demand for contextualised, personalised communications is at an all-time high.
Today, misunderstanding how a customer likes to interact can have a massive impact on how that individual views the business overall, and crucially, on how likely a customer is to re-use that business’ services or products.
Twilio’s research suggests that around seven in ten would purchase more products or services from a company after a positive communications experience, which goes a long way to highlight how important these interactions have become in the eyes of the customer today.
Consumers clearly place high value on the way in which businesses interact with them. But, with gaps in their understanding of this, businesses have failed to meet this essential need head-on. Consequently, as consumer perception has gone one way, business perception has gone the other, widening the gap between consumer expectations and business offerings.
In fact, despite 94% of businesses believing their customers are satisfied with the responsiveness of their communications, 96% of consumers disagreed. Customers raised issues with the responsiveness of business communications, the level of information provided and the lack of integration and personalisation of these interactions.
One clear lessons that businesses should take from these findings is that they must strive to respond to customers with the right message, at the right time and via the right channel.
To do this, a true omnichannel experience is vital. In 2017 the consumer’s channel of choice can vary based not only on the age and location of the customer, but also depending on the type communication a business is making (are they, for example, providing an update on the status of a food delivery? Or are they informing the customer of fraudulent activity on their account?).
All of this still needs to be done in a timely and efficient manner – customers don’t want to repeat data, like their name and address, each time they interact with a business. Offering a true omnichannel experience is not only about enabling communications across all channels, but, perhaps just as importantly, it is about investing the necessary time and resources into learning more about how an individual prefers to communicate (marketing emails, for example, are one of the more common and measurable ways of doing this). With this intel a business can strive to make the omnichannel experience a seamless one.
You get out what you put in
Addressing this challenge is something all businesses – whether it’s a small start-up like Hoxton Mix or a global brand like Netflix – should aim to do. It’s also something that they will have to work very hard to maintain. As, for example, AI continues evolve in the coming years (bringing with it greater access to real-time intelligence), companies will again have to re-assess what a true omnichannel experience looks like for their customers. How much they invest, and how much they subsequently get out of this, is down to the business.
Bridge the gap
Achieving engaging communications is no longer as simple as rolling out a multi-channel service. Businesses must take the time to learn about how all their customers prefer to communicate, and must do this often. Only with this understanding can they hope to create an engaging, effective experience which means customers keep coming back.
Devang Sachdev, Director of Product Marketing, Twilio
Devang Sachdev is a Director of Engagement Solutions at Twilio. Devang helps businesses find new ways to engage customers and improve their experience. Originally a hardware developer and technology policy specialist, Devang has previously led product teams at NVIDIA focused AI and machine learning. Devang has a MS Computer Engineering from University of Wisconsin Madison.