The danger of over-reliance on technology to customer relationships.

Eamonn Peel
On: 8 Feb 2018
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Three Business

The interactions between businesses and their customers are increasingly digital. From the SMS automation we talked about last week to email, video-conferencing and social media; technology does make it easier to reach more customers with less time, effort and cost.

Are these digital interactions as effective at maintaining strong customer relationships as the face-to-face meeting? Can one method function without the other?

We asked Eamonn Peel, Key Account Manager at Three.

Why strong customer relationships are even more important in a digital world.

At first glance, the advantages of digital communications and a highly-connected world seem outweighed by the disadvantages. You can more easily contact your customers, but they can more easily find and contact alternative providers of your goods or services. Your suppliers can bypass you and go straight to your customers. Your competitors can pick off your best customers.

However, if your customers are shopping around or easily persuaded away from your business, it’s likely their buying decision is price based. Strong, long-lasting customer relationships – the kind that can resist lower prices and wooing by competitors – are those built on more than price. They are built on service, trust and value. The question is: can technology alone facilitate that kind of customer relationship?

It’s all about the customer – always.

Ireland’s population largely comprises young digital natives. In twenty years’ time, face-to-face sales meetings could be a thing of the past. Video calls have already replaced many meetings in my calendar. Emails and SMS are taking the place of phone calls. Even so, there is still a place for traditional customer relationship building and maintenance techniques.

Regardless of the communication channel, the most important thing is that you know and understand your customer.

The communication channel you choose and the content of your communications, whether online or in person, need to be tailored to the customer. That’s why technology and automation can never entirely replace people, their knowledge and their intuition.

Good salespeople instinctively get the balance right.

If you do decide to opt for more digital communications, you will need to strike a careful balance with traditional customer relationship management methods. For example, you might regularly email a customer to keep communications open, yet when a complex issue arises, do you take ten emails to resolve it or sort it out with a five-minute phone call? It’s a question of balance and the answer is clear.

Similarly, an automated SMS is ideal for sharing offers and news, but when used to wish hundreds of customers a `Happy Christmas’, a personalised greeting to each would mean much more.

A good salesperson will instinctively get this balance right, with the right channel, content and tone of voice – because a good salesperson knows their customers.

If someone is passionate about what they do, about the products they sell, and about the people they deal with, then that is what builds a successful customer relationship.

Talk to our Business Advice team now to find out how we can help your business get the balance right with communications technology.