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How to create and foster customer relationships – part one

The face of customer engagement has changed. The explosion of social media and mobile devices has led to a shift in the speed and direction of interactions as customers now expect real-time relevance in their conversations with brands.

For many years marketers have focused their energies on pushing customers to a destination, in many cases a website, call centre or high-street store. But in this age of the customer, the emphasis has evolved and is more focused on the journey than the destination. It isn’t just about what journey you want to take the customers on, it is about meeting them en route and being adaptable along the way; rather now it’s about engaging with the customer when they want, where they want and how they want.

The landscape is now a continual stream of two way dialogue between consumer and brand; the key to this relationship is the speed and relevance of response – if you stand still amongst the deluge of tweets, Facebook posts and blogs your brand will sink, and sink fast!

The future of companies building relationships relies heavily on their ability to offer effective communications with consumers across a variety of channels at any one time. However, building an engaging relationship by delivering the right information at the right time, to the relevant device, whilst at the same time incorporating customer profile information - all of whom have different expectations and needs - is challenging and represents one of the biggest tests for companies today.

The key to the whole successful business equation is the pivotal position, and changing self-awareness of the customer. We live in the age of the consumer, meaning, the customer is very much in the driver’s seat – gone are the days where customers would accept the status quo.  There’s now a need to balance what you need to sell, more with what customers are actually looking for.

Options are virtually unlimited in the digital world and today’s customers have no problem switching their allegiances. It is generation X and Y that is continuing to take the customer experience agenda to a whole new level.  They are the digital society; they use every channel available to them to connect with friends, colleagues and favourite brands via smartphones, Facebook and Twitter.

It is difficult to reach an audience that has little tolerance for mass market messages or push advertising, unless you can make it fast, easy, relevant and of a language they can understand. This group tends to trust their peers’ recommendations, thus personal recommendations and keeping groups happy becomes increasingly important to brands.

Identifying a shift in the customer-brand landscape is all well and good, but actually being able to adapt to it, and address the new landscape to meet the requirements of internal marketing, as well as those of the customer is far easier said than done.  Of central importance is the ability to join up all the different touch points during the customer journey, along with the ability to personalise communications if they are to succeed.

With more and more consumers going digital, success will be determined by the ability to engage customers more consistently and relevantly across digital touch points and multiple channels.