Multiple Channels



I recently forgot to put a parking ticket on my car in a railway station car park. I could have bought it along with my rail ticket but somewhere in the 20 seconds it took for me to walk from the car to the ticket office it escaped my mind. I remembered 30 minutes later on the train!! Eeek!

“No problem” I thought, “I’ll buy it online”. From my phone I checked Google for the car park details and found the pay-by-phone code. Next I had to input my car registration and pay for 3 days parking - except I needed to create an account first - only to be told I already had one for my car and my email address. But I couldn’t remember the password so I had to reset it. I received the password reset by text message but the link in it took me to an empty web page. The mobile data signal from the train was also poor, meaning this all took a long time.

Knowing that every minute extra this took meant I was more likely to get a parking fine I switched tactic and hunted for a phone number for the car park company. There was none. There was an email address but with a note saying it might take 24 hours to get a reply. Hmph.

In a panic I called the rail company that operates the station. They told me they don’t manage the car parks. I could have asked a friend to pop down in person to get a ticket, or even move the car, except I had the keys in my pocket.

Online, in person, by telephone, on twitter, via Skype, by post, online chat, email, text message... we all have our preferred method of communicating with others. And those preferences change too, based on the circumstance, time of day, urgency, or even just our mood.

If I’m idly looking for inspiration for a new outfit, I’ll probably start online rather than a walk down the high street but I prefer to try and buy in a store. If I want to make an enquiry about insurance, I’ll probably also start online but quickly move to telephone if I think what I need is too complex for the online system. I don’t like making phone calls in the evening, I’m too tired for that.

My grandmother prefers to do banking face to face, whereas I use an app for that. My dad likes to pour over paper brochures received by post for things like holidays and electronic equipment.

What are your own preferred channels of communication?

The more channels you have available for people to be able to reach you, the more comfortable you make it for them to engage with you. How many channels do you make available for your customers and are there any you don’t have that you should be considering?

If you let customers reach you how and when they choose, you might not necessarily end up with more customers but the ones you do have will have a better experience with you and will appreciate you for it.

(If you want to know how the parking situation was finally resolved, I tried to reset the password again and this time I noticed that below the useless link in the text message I received was my new temporary password. In my rushed state earlier I hadn’t taken the time to look properly. The capacity we have to perform mental tasks, our cognitive bandwidth, is reduced when we are under time pressure and in an emotional state (panic!). Something I’ll cover in a future blog. And no, I didn’t get a parking fine. Phew!)