Balancing efficiency with the human touch

Balancing efficiency with the human touch

Traditional methods can help your brand connect better with people throughout the customer buying journey – but some automated methods are now more human than ever.

New technologies are offering marketers the opportunity to reach more customers more rapidly and with far more impactful communications than were ever previously possible. Yet, at the same time, the human touch remains important, and some of the oldest and most traditional marketing methods still have the ability to improve results significantly.

Peter Linas, International MD at CRM consultancy Bullhorn puts it this way: “Technology can be a great asset to marketers – but only up to a point. It shouldn’t be a crutch, and it certainly shouldn’t be treated as a substitute for genuine customer care. The thing that defines a quality sales and marketing team is the same as it’s always been: the ability to build relationships. When you talk to a customer or prospect, they should feel like they are your only priority, not one in a database of thousands.”

Automate to free up humans

Crucially, technology should not replace human interaction; it should free up time for greater human interaction. Marketing consultancy Gecko did this to help legal services firm Peninsula Business Services increase attendance at its 2014-15 series of 1,400 customer seminars.

Clare Mylan, head of sales at Gecko, says: “In professional services, seminar programmes remain one of the most important ways of securing new business, but Peninsula was finding the management of these seminars an unmanageable time commitment.

“Our solution was to implement a fully automated system, managing all the creative, print and production process of the direct mail, emails and personalised microsites. This freed up significant time and resources, preserving the human touch, and so increasing attendance and delivering a 270% return on investment.”

Personalise digital contact

It is also worth bearing in mind that automated, non-human contact with customers need not be impersonal. Increasingly it is possible to tailor the messaging, creative, timing and precise channel of digital contact by demographics, purchasing history, recent behaviour and so on. Get it right and this can produce marketing communications that feel more human than a real human.

Yet these personalised communications rely entirely on the data that goes into them. According to the latest State of Salesforce Report from business consultancy Bluewolf, 79% of marketers do not believe they are offering relevant, personalised data to consumers. “Leading CMOs are making data quality and access the central focus of their marketing strategy this year,” says Vera Loftis, UK MD at Bluewolf. “By working together, CMOs and CIOs will be able to constrain data input, standardising what users can enter into databases to move toward cleaner data.”

Finally, remember that regardless of whether you chose a new digital or a more traditional human channel to connect with your customers, those customers expect consistency across all channels.

As Howard Williams, marketing director at live chat provider Parker Software, puts it: “Whether a customer is shopping in store or online, their experience should follow the same pattern. Staff need to understand how messages are conveyed digitally and digital channels need to reflect the tone, language, and so on of customer-facing staff. Regardless of the blend you select, consistency is key.”

Alex Blyth Freelance Journalist CPL
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