27/03/2014

By Jen Morris, Marketing Communications Manager at Rapide

This year marks the 25th birthday of the Internet. It’s fair to say that its inception and subsequent global success has transformed the way we do business. This is never more apparent than the way in which brands approach Customer Engagement.

It goes without saying that Customer Engagement (CE) is of paramount importance to every business; in fact I’d go as far as to say that any CEO worth their salt should place effective Customer Engagement firmly at the centre of their strategy. Put simply, engaged customers are the difference between your business existing or not.

The invention of the Internet saw a whole new platform for businesses to communicate with their customers in a way that they never had before. More recently the rise and prolific use of Social Media has presented companies with both challenge and opportunity in equal measure.

Of course businesses have benefitted hugely from the Internet. The power of e-commerce, the potential a website has for expanding market share and customer base and the overall convenience of shopping online for consumers and brands alike cannot be over estimated.

While consumers can use the Internet to find out more about their favourite brands - visiting their websites and following their social media updates, similarly brands can connect with their customers on a global level, capitalising on the potential of e-marketing for sending uniquely targeted offers, and finding out what makes their customers tick.

But at a time when shopping for alternatives is only a click away, and a single damning Tweet or Facebook post has the potential to do almost irreparable damage, it’s clear that the Internet has left consumers calling the shots.

Many brands have responded to the rise of social media by trying to actively manage it, employing teams to monitor Twitter feeds and fire fight when any customer has something less than flattering to say about their brand. But to me these brands are missing a trick; they should be more concerned with effective Customer Engagement which aims to resolve customer issues before they feel the need to vent online. Of course social media is a great place to celebrate your Rave reviews and to incentivise happy customers to share their good news, but it’s not a place to air your dirty laundry.

This speaks to a further issue — the demise of personal Customer Engagement. The Internet has meant it’s easy to get in touch with a company without the need to see them face to face or even speak to them over the phone. That’s great for convenience but it also means it’s harder for the brands to show real personality, to create a connection that makes a person really trust a brand and create a rapport that you can’t put a price on.

So what does the future hold for Customer Engagement? Of course it’s important to embrace innovations in technology. Tim Berners-Lee once famously said “the Web does not just connect machines, it connects people”, but at Rapide we’re passionate about taking that personal connection between a brand and their customer one step further, by engaging them via the one thing they always have with them — their mobile phones. By sending out proactive communications which minimise customer effort, and asking them to share their feedback in real-time our clients find the mobile phone strikes the right balance between personal and efficient Customer Engagement.

And whilst it’s been 25 years since Tim Berners-Lee dreamt up the Internet, mobile technology isn’t far behind, with the world’s first text message sent just over 21 years ago. As more and more brands wake up to the power of mobile for creating personal connections with their customers, I wonder how long it will be till the CEO of every company is never more than a text message away?

Jen Morris is Marketing Communications Manager at Rapide. Launched in 2000 by Nigel Shanahan, Rapide is one of the UK’s leading customer engagement specialists. Their real-time technology enables brands to proactively communicate with and listen to the voice of the customer so they can take real-time, inspired action.