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Are Expanding Communication Channels Backfiring for Businesses?

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By Mark Friedman

(EMC)—This is quite the time for marketers. The mobile and social media revolution is bringing more consumers online, causing email, text messaging, Facebook and Twitter to displace traditional communication methods. The result is a rich playground for reaching consumers in new, powerful ways seemingly unimaginable just a few years ago.

Yet most businesses aren’t taking full advantage of the opportunities this shifting communications paradigm presents. Instead, they’re firing on all cylinders, blasting messages, account updates and notifications via almost any channel imaginable. While this may make sense on the surface, it’s actually backfiring. Consumers are feeling inundated, trapped and angry.

It’s about quality communications, not quantity. Even one extra message can be viewed as spam, turning the most loyal customer away. Businesses must deliver the right message via the right channel at the right time. Anything less, or in this case more, will only lead to a long, unforgiving road of customer dissatisfaction and lost sales opportunities.

Finding that balance between frequency and message reach is no easy task. Yet there are several strategies available to help you get on the right track. Consider the following four tips:

1. Collaborate. You’d be shocked at how little visibility business departments and functional units share with other areas of their business. Marketing departments often send similar types of communications via the same channel as customer care departments, effectively cluttering customers’ email inboxes. Chances are also high that any intelligence into a customer’s communication behavior isn’t shared across units. This leads to the damaging perception of an uncoordinated organization that frankly doesn’t care.

Every part of a company needs to be on the same page. The burden of responsibility falls on marketers—those who have the most to lose, specifically lost revenue, if it’s not done well. A coordinated communications strategy across functional and business units with shared intelligence on every customer is a must. Thresholds and rules pertaining to the types, forms and frequency of communications should play a vital part of a more consistent, coordinated effort.

2. Ask for preferences, don’t guess. Consumer preferences lie at the backbone of the most successful communication campaigns. By asking, understanding and acting on how a consumer prefers to receive information, higher response rates and action will follow.

Each consumer possesses preferences for what they like and don’t like, often varying between channels or situations. Treat each consumer uniquely, investing in a centralized system for gathering both stated and observed preferences as well as integrating analytics, reporting and decision-making capabilities to determine how and how often consumers should receive communications.

Remember, a consumer’s preferences will vary by application. For example, a consumer may want to receive immediate text notifications as soon as their favorite products go on sale or at the end of the day for other types of products, but they want to receive email messages about less time sensitive and imperative information. You must continue to monitor and modify these preferences as they can change overnight.

3. Transform your contact center to a two-way street. Marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to lead a positive cultural shift as the mobile phone has become the primary mechanism for communicating information and interacting with consumers. This provides an opportunity to transform the traditional contact center to an interaction center.

Historically, most businesses have operated their contact centers under the “inbound phone fallacy,” focusing mostly on managing and answering incoming consumer questions with little regard for outbound communications. However, as we’ve learned, success requires the right blend of proactive and reactive communication, especially as it relates to marketing and customer care applications.

Transform your contact center into an interaction center, mixing inbound and outbound communications through expanded channel options. For example, try sending text message alerts that provide recipients the flexibility to respond via text message, a website with an embedded URL or an 800 number to speak with a live agent. It’s this type of cross-channel blending approach that makes consumers feel valued and therefore more ready and willing to do business with you.

4. Embrace the cloud. Building a centralized communication platform aligning communication preferences with delivery is traditionally time consuming, costly and resource intensive. Businesses now have an alternative which provides quick results without the need to invest in hardware or pesky upgrades.

Cloud-based proactive communications provide the opportunity for organizations to bury the dreaded silo and benefit from a single view into each and every customer, allowing them to optimally balance the frequency, channel and mode of communications. Cloud-based communications also provide the flexibility to stay ahead of shifting customer preferences to ensure that no matter when and where, every communication will be heard.

The next time you’re reaching out to a consumer, stop and ask yourself: If I were to step into their shoes, is this how and when I’d want to receive information? Through a more coordinated, proactive communications approach, this invaluable answer can be reached for millions of consumers at once.

Mark Friedman is the chief marketing officer at SoundBite Communications.

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