Why Brands Need to Converse – Before It’s Too Late

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Company to customer communication should never be one-way – in fact, the rise and rise of messaging apps into multi-purpose platforms has made this almost impossible. Customers now, more than ever, are equipped with the tools to directly communicate with any given company on any given channel. This results in a significant growing demand for positive and convenient customer experiences that is changing the way businesses communicate with their customers.

Take Facebook and its subsidiary companies, for example. On Facebook Messenger alone, people and companies around the world currently exchange more than 20 billion messages every month. Meanwhile, on WhatsApp, more than 65 billion messages are sent between users every day. The majority of these customers, when surveyed, report that they message companies directly because they are always sending messages anyway and enjoy the convenience of direct company contact through an application.

This sort of information should force companies to sit up and take note. Those who lag behind in delivering quality customer experience on channels that are most convenient to their customers are likely to lose the race. Client conversation is crucial to any company communications strategy, and it must be treated as more than an afterthought. Let’s discuss why brands need to open up to their audiences and actively converse – before it’s too late.

Listen – today

The digital world has completely changed how brands must approach customer conversations. Gone are the days of creating multi-million dollar advertising campaigns with one message – now, companies must both advertise and engage with that message. This means customer feedback and interaction via social media. Ironically, listening to customers today decreases the likelihood of negative reviews or responses tomorrow.

Many do have systems in place to collect customer feedback and respond accordingly – the problem is that customers do not see it the same way. While about three-quarters of organizations believe themselves to be customer-centric, only 30% of consumers believe this to be the case. This perception gap demonstrates that companies need to go above and beyond their current processes to actually deliver upon their belief of customer-centricity.

Studies show that it is more than just good service, it also impacts bottom lines. The same report illustrates that 81% of consumers are willing to pay for a better experience, meanwhile another recent study found that four-fifths would switch to a different product or service provider after a bad experience calling the customer service department.

On the other end of the spectrum, positive customer service does have an impact on the prices customers are willing to pay. For example, a report from Applied Marketing Science found that customers who receive responses to their tweets are willing to spend 3 to 20 percent more on average-priced items. Either way one looks at this discussion, one thing should be clear: customer conversation matters.

What is a conversation, anyway?

Brands and customers are in a relationship: consumers and companies need to talk to one another to get the best out of the partnership. And the spike in global smartphone ownership, with population penetration rising from 60% in 2018 to 79% in 2025, means that these conversations are only going to grow.

Regular and real conversations are the best way to get back on speaking terms with customers. Conversation is not just talking – but receiving and responding to what the customer base is saying. Brands need to consider how best to open up their channels to hear and respond to their customers. Messaging apps and social media are major players in this area.

Twitter has been good at this for years, but messaging applications are proving to be powerful tools when it comes to company-customer conversation. Take the example of Sven the digital bouncer. Absolut Vodka pulled an epic marketing stunt when launching a new limited collection “Absolut Unique.” To celebrate the launch, the brand organized an exclusive party where only two tickets were offered to the general public.

The catch? Anyone who wanted to go to the party had to message Absolut’s virtual bouncer “Sven” on WhatsApp and convince him they deserve the tickets. Besides being innovative and interactive, the campaign garnered some impressive figures –  with more than 600 users sending in images, videos, and voice recordings over three days.

We need to talk

Brands do know the importance of customer conversation and interaction. That is why by next year, customer experience will grow to overtake price and product as the core element of every brand. This is a step in the right direction, with customer experience encompassing major elements of any brand’s customer interaction including mass media communication, visual merchandising, store and staff.

Company communication is all about good service. This means reasonable response times, useful replies and professional interactions. This last point is especially important for spokespeople to keep in mind, communication needs to remain on brand and appropriate.

It does appear that companies are allocating the right amount of effort and resources to customer experience, but as demonstrated earlier, there can be a disconnect between company efforts and public perception. In general, companies simply need to up their game when it comes to customer conversations – and this means harnessing the full power of social media applications and platforms to service their consumer base.

Implementing these elements today could be the difference between poor feedback tomorrow.

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