George Schlossnagle, president and chief executive officer of Message Systems and a recognized expert on messaging, talks about how cross-channel messaging can help drive traffic and increase overall engagement with your business’ brand.
Cross-channel messaging (i.e. posting Facebook comments via text message or uploading photos to Flickr via MMS) has become the norm for billions of mobile phone users worldwide. But outside of social media and cloud services providers, few companies are really participating in these kinds of interactions with their customers. Why? Because most large organizations still regard email, text messages and IMs as separate entities.
Think of the companies you do business with — banks, telecom carriers, retailers. In most cases, you’re dealing with a single brand, but you receive messages from four or five distinct entities under that brand: offers from marketing, billing alerts from finance, service updates from customer care. Is there any continuity across these interactions? Not likely, because each unit within the company sees you differently. Are your device- or message-channel preferences recognized or taken into consideration when you’re contacted? Rarely.
If you get a text notification from your wireless carrier that you’ve exceeded your minutes for the month, the logical response would be to text back and inquire what the additional costs would be. Or better yet, text back that you want to initiate an IM conversation where you could have your questions answered by a customer rep. Ideally, the wireless carrier would set the stage for a mutually beneficial conversation by offering a service upgrade and eliminating the overage. That’s closer to how it would work if this were an exchange between you and a friend. Individuals have made the jump to cross-channel communication, but businesses haven’t caught up yet.
Slight Change, Profound Disruption
We all like to think that technologies mold the way people interact or communicate, but really it’s a feedback loop. Human behaviors inform the way that technologies are built, and technology also shapes the way we behave. When tools or technologies become available that help us do our jobs better, communicate more effectively or have more enjoyable life experiences, those technologies are often rapidly adopted in the marketplace — but not always as the developer envisioned they would be.
As a software developer, I’ve seen this again and again. Innovative people and companies can make a slight change to an application or a piece of code and suddenly it is useful in ways no one ever imagined before. That ability to build on technology in unexpected and unplanned ways differentiates successful, viable technology companies from one-hit wonders.
A great example of this would be Facebook’s alerts that let you know a friend has commented on your wall post or photo via email or an SMS text. It may seem like a pretty unremarkable feature, but these messages are extraordinarily effective at driving traffic and increasing overall engagement with the Facebook brand. In the email business, these kinds of automatic messages are known as transactional alerts. Technically, they’re not much different than the confirmation emails you get when making a purchase online. The difference is that transactional alerts from Facebook prompt interaction. They’re designed with human behaviors in mind, within the context of what’s going to make for a satisfying social interaction.
The distinguishing factor for Facebook notifications is that they are a true B2C dialogue, operating under the guise of a C2C dialogue. When someone writes on your wall, you get a message you can respond to (over email or SMS). You don’t have to go back to Facebook’s website to participate in the conversation. The value for Facebook is creating user engagement via the messaging channel, not just through the website. And the brilliance of the scheme is that by leveraging the social graph, participation through any vector creates an engagement touch point for a whole circle of users.
Not every company wants or needs to be in the social networking business. But every company should want to provide better customer experiences, increase brand loyalty and provide better support. Facebook and mobile messaging have become wildly popular because they are designed to meet peoples’ communication preferences and behaviors. There are lessons here for any kind of organization that uses messaging — email, text, IM or any format — to interact with customers, especially marketers. Instead of driving people to a single channel and talking to their customers, they can (and should) allow customers to interact with them (and each other) through their preferred channel.
Antisocial: One-Way Messaging from Brands
Meaningful interaction is both the key and the conundrum for marketers. How do you create a relationship where you are talking with your customers versus talking at your customers? There is no silver bullet here, no magic formula outside of looking at the value you bring to your customers and developing an engagement model around that. To go back to our example of the wireless carrier, imagine the marketing possibilities that could be generated from a smooth text- or IM-based conversation. You’ve exceeded your minutes for the month and you’re on the hook for $45 in overage, but if you choose to upgrade your plan, for just an extra $10 per month, we’ll waive the charges and your minutes will go from 700 to 1,400 per month. Problem solved.
When most major brands in the U.S. think of messaging today, they think one-way email or monologue. That’s not going to work in the emerging social-enabled world. When younger consumers think of messaging, they think mobile text — one-to-one dialogue. There’s a huge disconnect here. Young people growing up in a world where meaningful two-way dialogue is the norm aren’t going to tolerate unresponsive brands. Any company hoping to do business with the next generation of consumers will need to incorporate interactivity into their business processes and create personalized experiences for customers. A two-way messaging capability that lets customers engage in conversations with you across any channel is key to making that happen.
Original article found at http://mashable.com/2011/04/05/cross-channel-messaging/.