Modern society is built on disruption and for that reason alone, there has never been a more exciting time to be involved in the communications industry. We have probably entered a period of the largest re-distribution of customers in history.
Whether we look back to the explosion of streaming services such as Netflix or Spotify, or consider the way we book taxis with Uber and hotel rooms with Airbnb, the world that we live in has changed and with it, so have expectations.
The consumer journey has been transformed by the rise of these now household names. It is more direct, more responsive, and entirely personalised. Established companies will not stand still, they will adapt and seek new innovations and new ways of speaking to their audience, or die.
All this was happening before Covid-19. The pandemic has just shone a spotlight on so many weaknesses in our society.
Take the banks and their inability to process the ‘Bounce Back Loan’ applications efficiently. We all assume that most bank transactions happen automatically but we’d be wrong. So many bank systems still don’t talk to each other. Not surprising as the banks don’t seem to talk to their customers either.
Look at diversity within the communications industry. Can we honestly say that we can celebrate an inclusive and diverse community? How much quality talent could we attract if we only look outwards now and then?
And look at the way we now work. A challenge for many but opportunities to pause and ponder whether some of these changes are a blessing in disguise.
Let’s take the classic autoresponder as an example. Once upon a time, the end user would dial a landline, and be greeted by a well-spoken recorded voice that would happily direct them to dial #1 for customer services, #2 for the sales department, or hold to speak to a real person.
Flash forward to 2020, and by the time the user has finished listening to the menu, they have already been distracted by something else and hung up, probably forgetting why they called in the first place.
The result is that a potential customer is lost and other than a stat on a report somewhere, there is little else to take away from the interaction for either party.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the good old Yellow Pages has long since been replaced with Google search. 'I’ll Google it' means that most callers have already done some research before they call you. So, why not provide them with an online autoresponder?
From the end-user's perspective, with a simple bot they can have their questions answered quickly and simply, they are introduced to the company's personality, and perhaps even been given a reward for their trouble.
They will be back. If not, the company has captured their contact information and can now retarget them with personalised advertising or directly with a follow-up call.
The point being... that you have provided an opportunity for an inter-action with a customer where they are, on your site (in your digital store).
The way our world works is set to become ever more digitally driven, and with all of these developments comes a growing demand for high-bandwidth, low latency and secure data connectivity.
But it also has become more social, particularly online. This could be a challenge for an industry that likes hiding in cupboards and playing with IP addresses. If we want to keep our customers and find new ones we need to be where they are.
The findings from our recent survey of 966 businesses suggest we have a way to go when it comes to being social online.
• 57% Businesses with no Facebook page
• 35% Businesses not verified on Google
• 66% Businesses have a Google Score less than 4.3
Google and Facebook are the big players online and provide enormous opportunities for anyone that cares to embrace them.
Focus on brand building, not short-term sales. They say that when times are good you should advertise but when times are bad you must advertise. But it’s more than that. Engagement is essential as Primark demonstrated.
During lockdown their sales fell to virtually zero. While temporarily shutting up shop, they continued to share updates with customers, be supportive and very present, acting as its customers' own personal cheerleader.
The fast fashion brand shared content that helped customers do their nails at home, celebrate birthdays alone, learn how to do zoom calls and keep their spirits up through lockdown.
You need to stay active and stay connected to your customer. Create content that is relevant, important, entertaining or serves them first. So, use this time to build brand awareness.
By being front and centre and providing value when your customers need you most, you will open the door for sales once buyer confidence returns. Simply by being present, you create an image of stability which reassures customers and encourages them to come to you.
Which brings me back to diversity, and the autoresponder. You need to be everywhere, not just Facebook and Google. Your brand pops up in many places whether you like it or not. Make sure it’s adding to your online reputation and not confusing it.
Businesses need to raise the bar on their digital communications and connect with people.
In 14 years 3.8 billion people have started to use social media, and on average spend over two hours a day on various social channels. Covid-19 has increased this time by 40%.
This change in communication is and will further impact all organisations in many different ways. The rate of change in consumer behaviour exceeds the speed that most organisations can adapt to understand how it affects them. In short, its’ all about social, traffic, automation and reputation.