This post is on behalf of the CIO Collaboration Network and Avaya

Last weekend I had the pleasure of introducing a movie for the first time to my 5 year old son – a movie that incidentally, I first saw when I was 5 years old.

In it, an iconic message was communicated via a channel that hasn’t quite been brought to the mainstream yet (though it seems we’re getting close).

The clip is below.

Considering the explosion of channels we have available to us now, I began to wonder “How would things have played out differently if she would have sent an email, a text, placed an intergalactic phone call, did a quick video conference, or simply waited to communicate in person?”

How would things have been different if she simply posted this message on her facebook page?
Would the response have been different on facebook if it was a video vs. text?

We could stop there, and simply consider the options, and their effect on the plot of the movie, but in the interest of time, let’s move on.

The multifaceted spectrum of human interaction

As technology advances, and communication channels expand, decision makers continue to wrestle not only with how to best leverage each channel, respectively, but how to optimize communications with their customers and prospects across an ever complicated blend of channels.

In a world where an increasing array of richer channels will become available, how will we optimize the exchange of information for the proper channel, taking into consideration the stage of the buying process, the preferences of the individual, and the desired intent, complexity, and nature of the content?

While many of us still gain comfort by placing confidence in the traditional marketing funnel, tell our sales reps to stick to the “sales process”, and check a box in our CRM system for our contact’s preferred method of communication, the reality is that human dynamics are far from linear and static. Technological advancements towards real time access to information and individuals across synchronous and asynchronous channels continue to complicate the matter even further. The line also continues to blur between our personal and professional interactions and habits.

From Joseph Walther in “The Handbook of Interpersonal Communication”

“Lore aside, technology sequences and their relational significance deserve an update: If a man takes an interest in a woman he sees in a class, he may want to scan the Web for information about her. If that search suggests potential reward, he may talk to her to establish a minimal basis of familiarity so that he can request access to her social network profile and be able to see how many friends she has, what they look like, what their comments have to say about her, and how she interacts with them in turn. If results are encouraging, a face-to-face conversation may come next, followed by a reinforcing e-mail or social network posting. Do increases in channel access signify relational escalation? Do we meet new partners’ Flickr family photo collection before we meet the parents, and why? Rather than resign ourselves to undifferentiated, massive multimodality, future research may begin to contemplate the strategic and interpersonal signification possibilities it presents as its users exploit the vast relational potentials of CMC (Computer Mediated Communication).”

This multi-channel, non-linear journey mimics how consumers and business buyers also court vendors today. What actions and interactions can be perceived as buying signals? Loyalty signals? Advocate signals? Detractor signals?

Below is a representation of a customer who makes two appliance purchases over four years, and twice shares content about it:

Image Source: MarketingProfs

While many organizations are venturing into the world of defining their customer journey and optimizing the experience by providing the relevant content for the appropriate stage, I believe these efforts can be further enhanced by beginning to overlay channel preference data across each stage in the customer journey, personalized for each recipient.

Savvy companies will be able to optimize interactions not only by providing the right content, but providing it in the most appropriate context and channel of choice for the intended audience. In other words, if fully optimized, the same content might be published to differentiated audience segments across multiple channels for optimized reach.

Make no mistake, the research and analytics to undertake such an effort would be significant. However, an unmatched customer experience leads to armies of customer advocates. Benefits associated with this type of loyalty and advocacy experience amplifier effects in a networked world.

This post is on behalf of the CIO Collaboration Network and Avaya


  1. says

    You are making an interesting, second-stage IMO, case for mastering communications with clients and customers via multiple channels.

    Alas, in stage-one we broke the model when it came to enforcing choice of channel – wish we could do better second time around. The problem is that in spite of preferences, context and intent replace preferred choice every time. I may want to blog about my feelings, but may also be in a different place (at the store versus at home), have less time, or just want to express my “excitement” over twitter. I may traditionally do research for 1-2 weeks via many channels, but my new baby is demanding a new washer NOW, not in 2 weeks. I may have the money burning a hole in my pocket for that newfangled contraption I must have now, there is no time to check with my community! (or I have already decided that without your knowledge by using new communities you are not tracking).

    The problem with trying to identify where and when customers do what, and try to interact with them there, is that they are the farthest thing from static and planned. Their lives, and their actions and decisions, change constantly. We could, as you wisely say towards the end, undertake analytics efforts to understand how those changes may happen and how the organization has to adapt to them – but then again, if we miss the signs and initiate or respond to an interaction via the wrong channel, at the wrong time, or with the wrong information — well, nothing says trust-breaker more than a misplaced interaction.

    And let’s not even start on using customer cycles versus experience continuums, nothing says “old world” more than trying to make a marketing pitch at the time a customer shifts to needing service (or the other way around)

    While I would love to get to the place you are suggesting, I would say that on the road there it would be better for organizations to plan and execute a flexible infrastructure that would allow them to react appropriately to any interaction via any channel at any time, with the right information and solution.

    Easy? nope. But is the “little” details that make the difference in relationships, no?

    • says

      Esteban, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I always appreciate your thoughts here, and in this case especially.

      Obviously there is a journey towards the state and abilities I describe. I almost began to write about many of the things that stand in the way, but decided against it both in the interest of length and I wanted to see what pragmatists would respond (an important voice in the course of progress).

      In all, I agree with your final conclusion “organizations (should) plan and execute a flexible infrastructure that would allow them to react appropriately to any interaction via any channel at any time, with the right information and solution.”

      Establishing the infrastructure to “react appropriately to any interaction via any channel at any time” will allow for organizations to improve the current state of interaction, experiment with different types of cross channel interactions, and ultimately the analytics and research will likely reveal well trodden paths for the types of optimization that I describe above.

  2. says

    “The line also continues to blur between our personal and professional interactions and habits. ”

    That’s a great point. Since our “office” can be anywhere thanks to modern technology, our business and personal lives are merging together. How we interact with other companies, coworkers, employees, family and friends in changing alongside it.


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