Good order the key to it all

Customer communication is becoming increasingly digital and takes place in a number of channels. But if a company is to know which channels they should invest in and how they should communicate with their customers, they must keep a close eye on the information they have about them. “Interactivity will be the keyword in future,” says brand expert Eva Ossiansson.

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Eva Ossiansson is conducting research into brands and social media at the Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law. Photo: Per Hanstorp

Companies are constantly adding new media to the ways they communicate with their customers. While traditional media are about one-way communication, the new digital media are conversation channels, and this places new demands on companies. This is the view of Eva Ossiansson, who is conducting research into brands and social media at the Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law.
“In the past, companies could plan and send out a message, and expect it to be received in a certain way. With social media, for example, companies don’t have as much control. Many still have a fairly blunt approach when it comes to digital media.”

Receptive, honest and genuine
With new technology and new media, customerrelationships are increasingly based ondirect contact and an open dialogue. This meansthat all companies have to think about where customers are, how interactivity can be stimulatedand how it can take place, she believes.
“When we converse, we build up trust and a relationship with one another. So it’s important to be receptive, honest and genuine in your communication, and to respond quickly.” 
Treated correctly, customers can be the brand’s best ambassadors, but for that to happen the company must create platforms where customers can also communicate with one another, she confirms. Product properties are becoming more and more of a hygiene factor from a brand perspective. 
“It’s rather about building strength in the way you communicate about the product.
Customer interaction, design expression, who’s using the product and where it’s sold are becoming increasingly important for the purchasing decision.
” Building a brand requires collaboration between different media, and the company must work with its customers. It’s important to think in terms of lifestyle and to familiarise yourself with how people consume, she emphasises.

Personalised direct offers
Eva Ossiansson cites swedish company ICA asone company that’s good at building customerrelationships, using methods such as personalizeddirect offers.
“ICA’s successes are based on the companyhaving its customer data in good shape, largelythanks to their loyalty card, which registersexactly what we buy and when.” Someone who knows a lot about theircustomers knows more about how they actand respond to various things. 
According to Eva Ossiansson, this in turn creates a greateropportunity to conduct a dialogue, both formallyand informally, and to influence them.
“A power shift is achieved through knowledgeof the customer. The retail sector, for example,is in a better position to gather this kind ofinformation than manufacturing companies.”
She confirms that a lot of companies are still not very good at using the information they have about their customers.
“Even though they have access to information, they don’t use it or set up systems to process it. They don’t even know who their best customers are.”