Brand-building through effective cross-channel communications strategies
by Christine Mauro
It was the perfect storm of poor communications as I sat in the airport waiting for my flight which had been delayed due to weather. At any given moment, I received information from at least five different sources: text alerts, the flight status board, verbal announcements, the airline website and other passengers waiting for the flight.
None of these communication channels provided the same information.
This made it impossible to determine what information was accurate or most up-to-date. After two hours of waiting, the board posted "CANCELLED," with no verbal confirmation or direction as to what steps to take next. Frustrated by the long line to speak to an agent, I turned to the airline website which directed me to call a customer service agent, which then resulted in a 10-minute wait on hold.
In today's digital world, customers expect accurate updates in real time. It's considered a failed customer experience when that doesn't happen. Companies need to have a cross-channel strategy with the technology in place to support it. As a result, customers will be satisfied with timely and accurate data when a problem arises.
Because most customers have a channel preference for receiving information, it's important to provide various options for accessing information. Today customers can choose to receive information via e-mail and online message boards—and many keep themselves informed with text alerts sent to their mobile devices. Still, some customers prefer the person-to-person interaction with customer service representatives. While it is important to provide a variety of channels to consume information, ensuring that all communication is aligned and that each channel is equipped to handle distribution is critical. The information posted to an online message board should be the same information communicated by employees both in-person and at call centers. Additionally, if an organization is driving customers to the call center from the web, the call centers should have the bandwidth to take on the volume of inbound calls along with the right information to resolve customer issues.
Taking this a step further, VIP customers or those participating in loyalty programs may expect special treatment, such as a dedicated phone number or expert agent for "members only." Although all customers are valued—and it's important to provide the best customer service—rewarding customers for their loyalty can be extremely beneficial.
So while many companies are concentrating on cross-channel marketing, maybe the big picture strategy should address how to consistently deliver on the brand promise even in the midst of a crisis. Organizations may build better relationships with customers when they most effectively deal with their problems through clear and consistent communications rather than selling them more "stuff."
Christine Mauro is a strategy director in simplification for the Siegel+Gale New York office.