This article featured by Mashable details the importance of multi-channel messaging–messaging through mobile phones, email, social networking sites, workflow, and more.
Social media and smartphones are disrupting the established patterns and practices for B2C interactions. To be successful, businesses have to engage with customers through their preferred channels, whether that be mobile, IM or social networks.
The link between technology and consumers is, however, a two-way street. Take, for example, Facebook notifications (the auto-generated email or text alerts you get when someone posts you on your wall or comments on a photo). These alerts constitute B2C dialogue, though they operate under the guise of a C2C interaction.
The initial attraction of social networks like Facebook and other pioneers in the space was bringing groups of people of shared interest together on the web. Adding a messaging capability to the basic web presence extends the social experience beyond the website. Without notifications, you’d have to go online to Facebook to hangout with your friends. With notifications, your friends — and the Facebook brand — come and check in with you throughout the day via your inbox.
This kind of messaging lets businesses participate in, inform, and add value to the social interaction (wall post/sharing) without ever forcing users back to the site.
Going Beyond Basic Transactional Messaging
Adding messaging to social media is a simple advancement that is having a big impact on the way we all connect. For instance, transactional messages – automatically generated notifications – were largely one-way communications. You bought something on Amazon or paid for something online through PayPal and you got a receipt emailed to you. That message probably contained a link to a support site if you had questions, but usually the interaction terminated right there.
Facebook notifications are an entirely different animal. You can respond to them, post comments in return or click through to see entire comment threads. It’s a transactional email or text as a starting point for two-way interactions. These kinds of communication are bound to spread to more conventional industries like banking, health care and retail especially in areas like customer care and marketing.
We’re seeing other companies creating complex message-driven workflows to automate processes that previously relied on live operators, or online lookup — for example, banks enabling customers to text short codes to get current account balances or mini statements listing out the most recent transactions. Where things get interesting is when banks provide options for callback requests, click-to-call or click-to-IM options, so that the digital conversation can go beyond the initial message.
Content and Context
Done right, this kind of messaging sets up “context-aware” interactions. Much like a person-to-person conversation that progresses from email to Facebook message to SMS, context is preserved throughout this B2C interaction. A company will know the context of a user conversation even as the conversation bounces across message channels. Just as important, the account holder doesn’t have to re-explain their issue if and when the interaction turns into a live exchange.
Social media and smartphones have allowed individuals to conduct conversations across multiple channels that can stop and restart over hours or days, but within a sustained context. People increasingly expect to employ that style of communication with businesses as well.
The trick is having an intelligent messaging capability that can interface with multiple backend systems and handle outgoing and incoming messages in multiple formats. Large organizations hit roadblocks because they have multiple systems for email and text: Marketing has their own email vendor and data sources, customer care uses in-house infrastructure for email but outsources their SMS/MMS operations, and so forth. It becomes impossible for the organization to follow or maintain a coherent two-way dialogue if the customer decides to stray from email over to text or IM.
There’s no going back to single-stream messaging. Businesses that can respond to consumer demand for multiple channels will better serve their customers and see real gains in loyalty and marketplace advantage.