As a business seeking maximum customer engagement, you’re interested in what channels will keep your existing customers close as well as expand your reach to new customers. What are the communication channels that will best reach your customers in 2022? We’re going to cover them here.
But, First: 2021
To envision 2022 well, we first need to examine 2021. How did the events of this past year impact the very foundation on which businesses communicated with one another and with their customers?
The evolution of customer communication channels in 2021 was incredible. A continuing, global pandemic meant ongoing challenges in reaching customers, which shocked many stores that relied on what were previously mainstream channels. A report from 2021 shows the customer’s preference for using web forms and email is in decline, while online live chat is on the rise. Meanwhile, 20% of customers have switched brands due to the quality of communications.
While some businesses have found it challenging to keep up with the evolution of communication methods during the global pandemic, there are many examples of businesses that have adapted and thrived.
For example, telemedicine (or telehealth) has been around in simpler forms for many decades. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased its usage. From 2019 to 2020 alone, telehealth use among Medicare patients alone increased by 63-fold! For customers of healthcare providers who are adapting to use modern communication channels, connecting with a healthcare professional via a video call is almost as easy as checking your bank balance.
The proliferation of app-based buying and getting assistance through online or AI-based chat has been invaluable in helping with customer engagement. In the foodservice industry, for example, restaurants are adding chatbots to websites for handling reservations or online ordering. Retail stores are using self-service chat to field customer service inquiries for order assistance or product recommendations. With AI-based chatbots, customers can reach businesses at any time of day to get their answers. Studies from IBM put its AI chatbot at nearly 80% accuracy for understanding customer intent and answering accurately.
What to Expect in 2022
All of the previous customer communication channels are still around, but for 2022, we expect the Top 5 list to include the following:
1. Voice and Video
Direct-to-customer voice and video will continue to become a more prevalent, a key method for communicating with customers. This will span across industries as the use case for this channel often transcends the business details. We’ve already touched on the growing use of video in telehealth, but this medium in the pandemic era extends to education, law, and even manufacturing. By representing your business through a human voice and a human face, you provide your customers with the interpersonal interaction they crave along with the assurance of empathy from your business.
2. Social Media
Schools, police stations, restaurants—you name it. Virtually all businesses have a social media presence to some degree. At the very least, social media is used for marketing purposes. However, social media-based communication began to change in 2020-2021 and will continue to rise in popularity. Qualtrics reports that 42% of millennials—and these are the oldest of the digital native generation—haven’t gone more than five hours without checking social media during waking hours.
The idea that you can tweet a business for help or get updates about events through Snapchat is becoming mainstream, especially among a younger generation of customers who are developing their buying power.
The SMS channel will likely see a net gain in usage in 2022 as it continues to be effective. One study reports an astounding 95% of texts are read and responded to within three minutes of being delivered! For many adults, the text is still a key communication channel. They’ll move to more SMS-based interactions with businesses—for updates about appointments, delivery updates, and more—to reduce the need for voice communication.
Email continues to be a preferred channel for brand communications across all generations. However, an interesting nuance to this category is that more and more businesses have made it possible to sign up for services with a social media login rather than an email address. With this shift, certain industries will face some challenges as they try to communicate with younger customers who are adopting social media as their primary means of communication.
5. Live Chat/Self Service
Last, but certainly not least, the live chat or self-service communication channel is the “last line of defense” for businesses that are still evolving to meet new customer communication expectations.
If your business doesn’t have an app or a streamlined text-based communication channel (such as SMS or email), your customers still need some way to get help from you. That’s where this category comes in, and we expect to see growth in this channel as well.
A study from Drift shows 82% of companies using AI-powered solutions for customer engagement deem the solution to be a valuable asset to their strategy. Customers are looking for live chat, too, with one report showing over 70% of customers find live chat to be the most satisfactory form of communication with a company.
The upside to investing in a live chat or self-service help system—which can be agent-based or AI-based—is that you can use it both on your website or in an app, and you can reduce the time-to- resolution for common requests.
How to Leverage These Channels
Having considered the Top 5 customer communication channels in 2022, the key takeaway is the plurality of it: channels.
Maintaining only one or two channels of communication means missing out on part of your customer base and ultimately missing opportunities for business generation. To create a well-rounded and effective customer experience, you need an omnichannel solution that puts the customer first and can direct the right messaging at the right time to the right customers.
In the follow-up article of this two-part series, we’re going to explore one solution for implementing an omnichannel customer communication solution, Moments from Infobip. We’ll walk through the steps for establishing communication flows and broadcasting to audiences.