A skill is something you obtain and an art is something you develop. So it is with the art of conversation. One can be taught the language skills, but the actual art of conversation is something which most have to develop over time. It's not easy to start one for most of us and it can be just as hard to keep a conversation going once it's begun. This gets even harder considering that today, conversations can span multiple channels in the digital and real world.
According to the exhaustive and well-known "Yearly Marketing Study" for 2011 from Belgium's The House of Marketing, one of the major challenges marketers reported was that of creating a dialogue with customers (48%). In fact, this was stated as the second biggest challenge just behind that of making products and services more relevant to customers (52%). Of course, both of these challenges are closely related: isn't relevance for our customers and business after all not what we seek in order to to spark and maintain conversations?
The fourth biggest challenge reported in the study was that of better integrating online and offline communications (35%). Trying to integrate all these channels and create a flow of information for the benefit of both the customer and the company is an ongoing struggle for most. We've all experienced this from the inside and the outside. When information becomes fragmented then productivity suffers and frustration sets in for all.
Engaging in conversations by definition is a multi-channel exercise
The report makes note that it's rather worrying that only 35% of respondents thought that integrating online and offline communications was a major challenge. That means that only one out of three thought this was a priority. However, when you combine this with the challenge of creating a dialogue with customers, it is obvious that integrating communications in general becomes a priority, whether it's online and offline or just online with, for instance, e-mail marketing, mobile, social, etc. Let's face it: engaging in interactions with a multi-channel customer by definition means having an integrated and holistic vision and marketing strategy.
In today's cross-channel world where people effortlessly journey from one place to another via multiple channels, you must have an optimized and integrated communication strategy and the technology behind it to ensure it's effective. The expectation today among consumers is quite simply that you should have access to all the relevant information regardless of what channel they choose to interact with you on.
The necessity of dialogue flows in today's customer life cycle
Today, a consumer might begin their journey from one of your brochures or direct mailings, and then decide to check out your website, follow you on social media and look for customer reviews and recommendations online. They might then decide to contact your call centre in search or more details or perhaps email sales with an information request.
In this kind of connected world traditional corporate silos are completely counter-productive and not only hamper your productivity and morale internally, but alienate your potential and existing clients as well. In a cross-channel culture, the only things which should be in silos are grain and missiles.
Certainly creating a dialogue with customers is crucial, but once that dialogue has been established it absolutely must flow unimpeded by a lack of technology solutions on your end. The customer doesn't care how challenging it may be to provide this flow. They only care that it exists and only know that if it doesn't, it causes them frustration by forcing them to retrace and repeat steps which are redundant and waste their time. This is why you must have the right solution partner to ensure you maintain the flow and the art of conversation with your customers.
Not being able to provide this kind of dialogue flow to your customers is much like trying to engage someone in a conversation in a loud room. Having to constantly repeat yourself is going to kill that flow and end your dialogue.
You can download the study booklet here.
Today's customer is cross-channel and he/she is at the centre of sales and marketing.
Communication channels depend on the consumer and marketing is about engaging the cross-channel customer and prospect throughout integrated dialogues that are driven by his/her buying journey, preferences, triggers, signals and behaviour.
Discover why your business should move to an integrated marketing approach step by step and how.