By Carrie Tuck, Director of Business Development

It is an ever-changing world with technology in the forefront of its evolution. Generationally, there are high expectations for service providers to live up to: iGen wants to interact via automated assistants by paying its bills through Facebook Messenger; Millennials don’t even check electronic mail, mainly relying on text as their primary form of communication; Gen X’ers still use AOL and yahoo email addresses as their classic correspondence method; and Baby Boomers become annoyed if they have to speak to an electronic voice on the telephone because they expect to talk with a live person. No matter the industry, customer engagement is the key to customer satisfaction and positive outcomes.

So how, as customer care professionals, do we please an audience that consists of multiple notions as to how they wish to communicate? It seems simple enough to me…offer options and let them choose. Let your call center off the hook! If a customer doesn’t want to speak to a live person, by all means don’t tie up your phone lines for those who do.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that any solution is an exact science. For instance, a 9-1-1 center needs to immediately speak to a citizen calling with an emergency. However, what if that person is in danger, potentially hiding in a closet from an intruder? Giving him the option to text 9-1-1 from his mobile phone could potentially save his life. Have you considered the disabled in your community? Those who communicate in a language other than English? Communication is key. It is important to comfort your community by giving them the means to reach out in any way possible when stuck in a dire situation.

Contact centers are now starting to offer various communication modes to their customers. With two-way interactivity via text, email, voice, and chat bots, they can reach their customers according to their preferences. Not only does extending reach by reducing inbound calls improve the return on investment, but can also lead to an increase of sales by facilitating an effective marketing strategy.  As an example, my dentist frequently texts me available appointments, but without those texts I am generally too busy to remember to pick up my phone during office hours to make that cleaning appointment. My gym sends me notes commending me on coming in and offers special promotions. Without little nudges, I wouldn’t have purchased those boxing gloves or taken that free training session.

Expectations run high in 2019. Twenty years ago, most people didn’t even utilize available email addresses. These days we are shocked if our utility company doesn’t alert us of a planned outage or restoration effort through Twitter and Facebook. Most large corporations have employed a Digital Communications team – and we expect to be contacted digitally! Recently, the Northeast was amidst a snowstorm and an older friend told me to check the news because schools may be closed. My reply was, “Do you still have a phone on the wall with a cord attached?”. Schools no longer bother broadcasting closings via the news, instead they send families texts and automated voice notifications. Thank goodness, because now I can sleep past 5am when I used to wake to ogle the TV, would blink, miss the “S” part of the school closings, and wait alphabetically for “South Brunswick” to come back around 15 minutes later. Receiving a text and rolling back over to sleep in my comfy bed is a much better start to my morning.

Recently I was watching my parent’s cat while they were on vacation. As we walked into the house, my 9-year-old son told Alexa to turn on the lights as we walked into each room. I am grateful they are set up this way as they age. The wave of the future will be smart devices interacting with those that are house bound (or simply too busy) so they can pay bills, receive important alerts regarding their communities, and receive emergency communications. I may be jumping the gun a bit, but all the more reason for customer support to deliver easy interactions right now.

Multichannel communications from business to consumer are readily available and continue to evolve, so there’s little excuse not to include them in a customer engagement strategy. Customer experience must be a major focus for any company, including those in traditionally less competitive verticals. Why not do all you can to reach out to your customers how they want you to, whether it be text, email, voice or social media? It is expected of your organization, and not responding is no longer an option with players like Amazon and Google shaping the landscape.