Customer engagement is no longer a series of independent experiences. Instead, it’s an ongoing dialogue between brand and consumer that is constantly in play.

For this reason, it’s vital for brands to adapt their service to the ever advancing ways in which consumers shift between channels of communication, depending on where they are or what they want to achieve. It’s no longer viable to rely on disparate customer service centres and social media departments; in fact, interaction should feel more like a well-established, mutually-beneficial relationship – or friendship.

So just how are brands stepping up to embrace the two-way street that is modern customer service?

They’re always there for you 

In the past, interaction between consumers and their favourite brands tended to happen in one-off instances, usually via telephone, e-mail, or even letter. However, with the times changing to embrace Wi-Fi and smartphone technology, we’re living in a world of constant connectivity.

A staggering 95 per cent of consumers believe that mobile apps are more convenient than the call centre for customer service purposes. Gone are the days of brands selecting when and how to interact with their audience through cold calling and mail-shots. Today, consumers are taking charge, taking their pick from a host of available lines of communication, whether that be social media, live chat, telephone, e-mail, or mobile app – and they expect their chosen brand to be there too.

Brands that are not only present but attentive to their customers will stay at the forefront of their minds next time a similar product or service is required, either for them, or as a recommendation to someone else.

They’re becoming good listeners

Garnering their new capacity to be heard, consumers are gradually coaxing social media beyond the marketing department, so that brands have just as much to gain from listening as they do speaking in the digital space.

When customers offer their feedback, be it positive or negative, they expect a reaction. Brands should see this as a golden opportunity to learn about and identify their own strengths, weaknesses, and market positioning, so they can achieve a greater understanding of how to refine their products and services.

Streamlining the customer journey to make for a greater brand experience is a really effective way of getting ahead of the competition.

They’re very giving

Brands are starting to give back. An excellent example of a relationship-building interaction in action is the Morton’s Steakhouse stunt from couple of years ago.

Mortons Social Media

Food critic and blogger, Peter Shankman, was hungry when he boarded a domestic flight to Newark airport, so he tweeted his favourite steakhouse. What nobody expected was that someone from Morton’s would notice his plea and come up with a plan.

During the two and a half hours between Shankman’s tweet being sent and him landing at Newark, the idea was approved, a plan formulated and his steak prepared, before being transported 25 miles from the nearest restaurant to the airport.

This is a perfect example of how effective communication can be used to reach out to consumers. But the key to success is to remember that all communication must be results-driven. Although dialogue should be continuous and natural, there’s simply no point engaging in chit-chat with no ultimate sales goal.

In this example, Shankman’s delighted tweets publicised Morton’s Steakhouse to over 100,000 ‘foodie’ followers.

They always want the best for you

With customers harnessing more control over the relationship, it’s becoming more and more imperative for brands to provide positive outcomes. These positive outcomes can be shared across Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to facilitate an active, passionate online community around the product or service.

And if the outcome isn’t positive, consumers have never been better placed to get their own back. Consumer watchdog Which? recently found that over 85 per cent of customers would leave a brand that they believe treated them poorly. Executive Director, Richard Lloyd, concluded:

“It’s clear that the quality of customer service can either make or break even the biggest names.  In these times of economic hardship companies simply can’t afford to compete on brand awareness or price alone if they want to be sure of retaining their customers.”

Consumers remember positive experiences.  With the emergence of revolutionary technology fundamentally altering the landscape for communication, brands need to turn on the charm and across every channel to guarantee customer satisfaction and get ahead of the competition.