As the world continues its digital migration, with its subsequent growth in the use of online channels and social networking platforms to communicate, are we all in danger of actually losing touch with our customers? Whatever happened to all those face to face meetings? Sometimes it even seems like a chore to pick up the phone and talk. These days, it’s all too easy to hide behind an email, text or tweet rather than using verbal or face to face communication that are all too often considered ‘old-hat’ or too time consuming.
Today, digital channels, social platforms and automated marketing software are seen as cheaper and quicker options, requiring much less resource and with the ability to reach a far wider audience. But by ditching tradition in favour of these digital channels, I think businesses are missing out on really getting to know their clients at a truly personal level; understanding what they want; what makes them tick; the challenges they face – all of which give us the opportunity to develop a more beneficial long term working relationship.
Digital technology has without doubt enabled us all to communicate much more efficiently. But it isn’t always as effective, or indeed as cost-efficient as you might think. Take for example, the video conference. According to a white paper published by Verizon Conferencing, a five-person meeting held face-to-face is over seven times more expensive than hosting an audio conference, and three times as expensive as a video conference. Despite the clear cost and efficiency advantages of audio and video, Verizon’s survey also highlighted that 87% of respondents preferred to meet in person, while face-to-face meetings were ranked more productive and creative than their virtual counterparts. So, while the meeting itself might be more cost-effective, are the actual outcomes which are in real terms far more important?
The latest marketing automation technologies certainly give the marketing community the tools to reach more customers in a shorter space of time with specifically targeted messages, and the ability to monitor and manage responses more cost-effectively. But many consumers today are much more attuned to this ‘automated’ approach and want something more personal. You only have to consider how we all manage your own email inboxes these days to see just how many of our daily emails are diverted in to junk or clutter folders – never to even reach sight of the intended recipient.
Perhaps it all comes down to traceability and measurability? This is definitely achievable with online and digital communications where you can determine the number of clicks, monitor open rates and track web traffic for example. By contrast, how can you quantify your time to attend a meeting in terms of ROI? Well you can start by understanding and agreeing the intrinsic value of, and criteria for, what you are measuring before you try and measure it!
Social and digital communications offer many benefits, but overuse of these forms of remote interaction and conversation can lead to a culture of distance and isolation. This in turn stifles the collaborative creativity, energy and real partnership approach you can achieve with a more personal human touch. While the more ‘traditional’ forms of communication may take extra time, additional resource, and are perceived to be more expensive, it is without doubt an investment well worth making. I believe however, that the clear winner here is to create the right balance and use a mix of the different forms of communication at the right time and for the most appropriate outcome.