Over Christmas, the fancy Samsung store at Opera House Bangalore had this kiosk where you could pick up a postcard, write a message, put it in a mailbox and they would take care of the postage. I grew up with a shoebox full of beautiful picture postcards inherited from my sister and lovingly added to. I also have many albums of stamps from my childhood. I viewed the free postcard kiosk with a whiff of nostalgia and my marketing brain was all “how cool”. It was rapidly deflated when I asked my 21 year old companion if she’d like to send a card. It was pretty much a “what’s that and why” conversation. She entered into the spirit and managed to locate her parents’ address and send them one. But it was a totally new concept for her.
Let alone postal address – the average teen today doesn’t know anyone’s phone number – just their Insta or Snap handles.
The Long Decline of Print
Yeah, I know, why am I predicting the death of writing in writing 🙂 Because it’s a slow decline. At least for the lifetime of my readers, writing will still be a medium of communication. A sign of how quickly it could decline is the demise of shorthand. It was considered an essential element for good note-taking and a required qualification for executive assistants, journalists and many government jobs. So much so that my dad, an expert, tried to get me to learn it. In 2016, the BBC was still wondering if shorthand would die out. The answer is pretty clear – if we can record a conversation, and then use AI to summarise it, we don’t need writing.
Writing evolved to be a way to concisely store information. There was plenty of data loss – no pictures, no smells, no texture, no sounds – but given the available storage media eg paper or stone or bark – this was acceptable. Today when it’s practically free to record hours of footage, why should readers put up with data loss?
Always provide an alternative to the written word. Not just in outbound communication, but also in inbound.
Welcome to Emotional Communication
Emotive communication is more effective than dry text. Writing can be beautiful and the proper adjectives can evoke a new world. My daughter recently described the sighing of the lost soul of the sunken ship (because it sank before it could realize its potential). But let’s take something simple like customer reviews. Is there a difference between what people put up on Amazon vs what they tell you over a cup of coffee? Of course there is! It’s the enthusiasm, the details, the nuances, the humour! When you think about it, an influencer does professionally what your friend does in the course of a visit to their house or even over a cup of tea at the local dhabba.
There is research that compares the impact of YouTube vs Amazon reviews – interesting read in [email protected] Take a look and see if you are making the best use of tech for customer interaction. Are you still expecting customers to “write in” their feedback?
Know your customer
In the 1990s, call center support employees, at least at RPG Cellular or Citibank used to have an actual relationship with customers. Some even sent them gifts. But of course, having real people talk to other real people is expensive, and over time most call centers have transitioned to either IVR or “live chat”. But in the process, businesses have lost the ability to speak to their customers and gauge their emotions. The drop in cost of video has not seen the rise of automated video customer support. And yet that could be a great asset – to understand why your customers consume your service or product.
I was guilty about marketing branded sachets of tea to consumers who were clearly struggling to make ends meet. But once I saw them actually consume the product I realised that they were not drinking tea, but a dose of self-esteem. (More on this in my book.)
Review your current communication channels and see if you can add non-text means, particularly video. I can’t really understand why, if there is an actual person on the other end speaking with me, they don’t give me the option of video.