“The future belongs to brands that do more than pay lip-service to real dialogue and recognize that their customers want them to believe in something.” – James Murdoch
Both customers and businesses know that the balance of power has shifted suddenly and significantly from companies to customers, placing a lot of control and influence in the hands of customers. This has left companies with no option, but to comply, and yet some companies see this ‘shift’ as a hazard and a nuisance, and continue to hold on to the traditional methods of doing things. Part of the ‘traditions’ include holding one-way conversations with customers, by way of pushing messages and communiqués across to them, without giving them an avenue to respond or ‘converse’ back. The shift in the balance of power however, means that these monologues must stop and transform to dialogue with customers. This is one of the demands of customers and has become an inextricable part of top class service. Customers shun conversations and businesses that do not allow them the freedom and authority to respond and make their views known. They refuse to be ‘talked at’ by companies and their representatives, and would much rather associate with companies that listen more.
It is critical and the responsibility of companies to create avenues that encourage a dialogue with customers – and this could be through any means and channel. Companies that do this successfully would find customers and would be able to keep them long, while companies that refuse to engage in a two-way conversation are sure to fail. The benefits and rewards of having a consistent dialogue with customers are many – attracting more customers, being able to retain existing ones, building market leadership, customer loyalty, and brand advocacy. In the current market space, it would be hard for any company to sustain its success without all of these factors. There really is no more time to waste – there is an urgent need for companies to heed the diktats of the customers or face the consequences. By opening up to the idea of a dialogue with customers, a company’s promotions and advertisements would be aimed not just at attracting the attention of prospects and tossing information about the company and the brand, but also would be engaging enough to get prospects excited to interact.
As mentioned several times, with so many channels of communication – particularly social media – companies must bow down to the demand of having a dialogue with customers. Customers want and expect information all the time, and are quite equipped to get as much of it as they need through online searches, before they finally decide to have a conversation with a company. Customers need to feel important and that happens when they know that the company is listening to them, rather than constantly ‘talking’ at them. Companies that continue using the modern tools and channels in the traditional methods are sure to meet with failure even in getting across to customers – engagement would only be a distant dream. It would be imprudent and insulting to customers for a company to believe that it can simply shove ads, comments, and messages at them, without allowing them the leeway to comment, respond, or take action. For example – is it not annoying when you receive a message from a number or an id that does not allow a response. It is like the company saying, “We wish to convey what we want, but are not interested in listening to you”! How many such numbers and ids have you blocked to date? Companies need to change their mind-set and create one that welcomes and encourages an on-going dialogue with customers.
Having a dialogue with customers is not just about sending them information and messages, and waiting for them to respond. Rather, it is about companies making information freely available, such that both existing and prospective customers can use it when and where they want, and access it through any channel and smart device they find convenient. With so many tools and techniques now available, it would seem strange that companies still struggle with having a dialogue with customers. It is vital that a company is able to link all the information useful to customers, from across all the channels, to ensure that it becomes extremely simple for customers to find whatever they are looking for through one or two simple searches. This is of course not an easy task but the easier a company makes these ‘searches’ and consistently pushes to have a meaningful dialogue with customers, the more benefits it would reap in terms of revenue, profitability, and success.
The fact is that when customers use the information provided by a company, they are essentially conveying their interest in beginning a dialogue with a company – and a smart company would waste no time is converting this show of interest to a ‘conversion’ and possible a long-term mutually beneficial relationship. Of course, the key factor here is speed. Customers are not inclined to waste time or wait around for a company to ‘act’ on the interest they show, and would quickly move on to another company with similar products and services. With so much information about customers readily available and easy to access via their social media pages and online buying history, there is no excuse for any company to be unable to conduct a meaningful and useful dialogue with customers, aimed at engaging them and arousing their interest for the company.
The real use of data would be for companies to act on it and aim to build a path that leads to an on-going and value-added dialogue with customers. It is no surprise then that umbrella messages / generalized content, meet with scepticism and even annoyance by customers. Even if the company does not mean to ‘spam’ a customer – a generalized and impersonal message sure feels like it. The key reason being that such messages do not address their particular issue and rather makes them feel unimportant and one of many. Instead, in order to encourage a dialogue with customers, a company must fashion the message around the information it gathers about a particular customer, and take into account the reasons that the customer may have searched for some particular information. Using all this data, a company would be able to make a relevant, personal, customized, and targeted message that would instantly strike a chord and encourage a dialogue with customers.
Digitization of communication channels now offer huge and many opportunities for companies to meaningfully connect and build a two-way association with customers. It all depends on the focus and mind-set of a company, and the interest it has in listening to customers in order to provide the best in class service. It is necessary for companies to stop and take time to actively listen to customers and allow them the control to choose what information they want, how they want it, and how often they want it. A company that appears open and ready to engage in a dialogue with customers, would find more favour from the discerning customer of today. The moment a customer pulls and uses information about a business, the company should be agile enough to make good on this interest, and act on it in a manner that a customer perceives as personal, relevant, interesting, and tailored to suit her or his exact current needs. Engaging in a dialogue with customers can be an extremely powerful experience and a great learning for any company. Give your customers a voice – and be sure that they would show you their appreciation.