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Guest Blogger

Dr Mark K. Smith, CEO of ContactEngine

Communicating with customers isn’t easy. First mail? 1840. Ring-ring, ring-ring and suddenly it’s 1876. Now rest. Over 100 years later we got (e)mail, and a decade after that the Short Message Service (SMS) first pinged. But then things got a bit social, Friends Reunited, Bebo, MySpace, the Facebook behemoth and then oddly it went a bit retro to short messages – only this time called Twitter, Viber, WhatsApp and so on.

Omni-channel or omni-shambles? You choose….

Whether you see this as a threat or an opportunity you can’t ignore the fact that customers now demand an always on, always ready, always smart method of communicating with your brand. That’s why the announcement this week that Facebook has released an API for developers to build new ‘bots’ (they really need to workshop that) is so interesting. As the owners of both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger the ‘Zuck’ has the possibility of reaching 1 in 7 people on the planet with messages that are not just between pals – but helping to allow users to engage with cabs, planes, cable guys and a million other things.

Trouble is your phone is still built with the primary goal of making a phone call and receiving a text, throwing apps into the mix means the ring and the ping are mixed up with dozens of other apps vying for your attention. Worse, the apps only really shine when you’re all connected up. How often do you hear those immortal words ‘got no data’?

So the trick is to be channel agnostic, just accept that you cannot dictate the channel to your customers, and provide them with the ability to choose the channel they want, you can do that in two ways – covertly – by cycling through a call, a SMS, an e-mail, a bit of Instant Messenger, and stick to the one they reply with when you answer. Or, better still why not just ask them? That way the customer opts in and you are more likely to provide the best possible service you can in the best possible medium for a reply.

Love your customer and they will love you back, and never, ever say the word bot. Ever.

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