Sandie Simms of West Unified Communications discusses changing customer expectations and the difference in preferences between different generations.
In the somewhat recent past, the brand and consumer relationship was much simpler. Most transactions were carried out person-to-person – either face-to-face or through a phone call. People only bought groceries from a checkout cashier or booked their travel arrangements via phone directly through a travel agent.
As technology has evolved, so has the brand and consumer relationship along with it. Instead of customers going to businesses for goods and services, there is an increased demand to bring the end product to them – through mobile devices, delivery services and more.
So for marketing departments everywhere, that means there has been a shift in what consumers expect from brand communication and how companies must deliver that communication to attract and retain their consumer base.
As a recent study from West indicates, the modern customer experience (CX) places a higher weight on the quality of each interaction.
With this in mind, we look at additional aspects of brand management that companies need to consider when identifying what the general populace expects from today’s brand communications.
Consumers Expect Good Service
This expectation seems obvious, but what we really need to do here is break down what “good” service really means to the average consumer.
According to West’s study, vital aspects of good service include:
- Speed to resolution – the faster the brand answers their question or resolves their issue, the happier the consumer will feel
- Convenience – organisations need to offer a multitude of channels for contact, but be aware of which channels are preferred in which situations
- Transparency – when the brand does a proper job of educating consumers on its product offerings and associated pricing
Customers expect the brand to deliver in each of the above areas of CX, whether the contact was initiated by the customer or by the company.
Quick responses received through a unified approach are preferred, with easy-to-use, accessible tools, such as mobile device interfaces through chat windows, apps and browsers.
Also, when there is a big sale or product recall, consumers want that information communicated clearly and concisely through their preferred method of contact.
It’s also important to determine which communication channels should be offered – and which are preferred – in which instances.
For example, our study indicated that 82 percent of respondents preferred to be contacted via email for proactive communication alerts and notifications, but only 25 percent wanted a phone call with a live representative for these kinds of contacts.
On the flip side, if brands need to divulge negative information to their consumers or deliver another form of outbound communication, consumers are almost twice as likely (45 percent) to prefer to be contacted by a live person.
Reasons Consumers Opt Out
Mass email blasts, pop-up notifications in browsers and the like are easy and sometimes inexpensive tools for reaching consumers. But these tools are only effective if the end user is reading them and acting on them.
In fact, West reported that 77 percent of users have opted out of these forms of communication within the last six months.
So, it’s imperative to ascertain the reasons customers delete or even opt out of your company’s electronic communications altogether. Here are their reasons for opting out:
- Communication was too frequent (45%), irrelevant (30%) or redundant (13%)
- Communication contained too much information
- The customer had no recollection of opting in
- Communication lacked a human touch
Consumers’ time is valuable; they become irritated when flooded with too much information, too often, that often doesn’t apply to them or their current lifestyle.
Keeping electronic contacts at a reasonable interval with useful but succinct information may help to prevent the onslaught of opting out.
Customers Want Self-Service Options
Today’s consumers simply want the ability to handle tasks their own way, on their own terms. Brands need to offer myriad channels through which users can contact the company and look for information.
For instance, customers may search a mobile app or website or browse an online video or tutorial for answers. They seek knowledge that is readily available and accessible for simplified ordering and quick fixes to their issues.
Again, the customer’s preference is determined by what they want to accomplish. For an appointment change, the preferred communication vehicles are email or a live phone conversation.
When making a purchase, over three-quarters of those we surveyed want to handle it themselves via the brand’s website. However, a more personalised response is expected when a data breach affecting a customer has occurred, with communication derived from a detailed email or a direct phone call from a company representative.
Companies really need to be aware of which mode of communication is preferred in each situation and let the consumer handle the items they can take care of in their own way and on their own timetable.
How Gender and Age Influence Brand Communication and CX
Brand perception is fostered by many factors. Significant factors include both gender and age. And while both men and women consumers mostly agree on their communication preferences, their ideas of good service vary, as well as their reasons for opting out of certain communication avenues.
For instance, when considering self-service modes of communication, men prefer convenience, while women place a higher emphasis on a personalised experience. And more women than men (55 percent vs. 37 percent) choose to opt out of brand communications.
Age affects brand communication techniques due to the technology generation gap. For example, Millennials who have only lived in a world of mobile devices and internet access have a different perspective than their predecessors.
On the other hand, older generations are more concerned about security and about developing a personalised relationship with the companies from which they purchase goods and services, while younger generations want quick answers and instant gratification. These tendencies affect preferred channel usage when communicating with brands.
Knowing and understanding your target market will make it easier to tailor brand communications to your customer base.
Key Findings and Takeaways
Brand communication in the 21st century is an intricate process. For effective communication, a variety of factors and human preferences must be taken into account.
Omnichannel communication is expected but should be offered and used in only particular instances. A personalised CX is more important than convenience and reliability in certain situations.
Companies need to be aware of outbound contact predilections. These messages and notifications should be customised to the individual user and received at the interval preferred to prevent a one-way trip to the recycle bin.
Also, customer knowledge, age and experience are other important considerations in formulating your company’s brand management strategy.
To provide a customer experience that will have everyone extolling your company name… get your customers’ input!