How do customers really want to be contacted?

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In an increasingly multichannel world it is easy for organisations to think they know how customers want to be contacted and to force them to use certain channels for reasons of convenience or cost.

The problems behind this approach are highlighted in some new research from data specialist Acxiom, which compared actual consumer contact preferences with how marketers thought they’d like to be reached. Some of the differences were startling – 25% of marketers felt that existing customers would be happy being contacted by text, but only 9% of consumers felt it was appropriate. While there were smaller differences when it came to contact through social media, overwhelmingly the most popular channels for both prospective and existing customers were the more traditional routes of post and email.

Clearly, customers have strong views on how they are contacted and companies need to respect this, both when sending marketing offers and particularly when providing customer service. From our experience here are three tips that organisations should follow

Always use the customer’s channel of choice
If a customer has emailed you, don’t call them back (unless they actually ask you to) – they choose a channel for a reason and you need to respect that. Be guided by their preferences, not your own convenience.

Offer a full range of channels
Don’t force consumers to solely use a single channel, but provide them with the options to pick the one that they are most comfortable with. This may vary demographically or just depending on the type of query – for example, people often want the written audit trail that an email provides when raising a complex issue.

Link channels together
Customers want to be able to switch channels, without having to repeat their query to different agents. So make sure that all of your channels are part of a single, consistent customer service infrastructure that provides fast, accurate and up to date information to your agents, however they are contacted.

The channels you use to communicate with customers when it comes to service can make the difference between building a long term relationship and them simply walking away – make sure you have the processes in place to listen to your customers and talk on their terms.

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