Traditional vs Digital Communication Channels


Share on LinkedIn

I recently read a great article that discussed balancing efficiency and the human touch. The article, by Alex Blyth, drew attention to an important decision that businesses face in marketing and customer service – whether to use traditional or digital channels (or the right mix of both) for communication with existing and prospective customers.

Traditional channels (e.g. phone and face-to-face) are often seen as labour intensive. Companies believe that they must free up lots of resources and devote an entire internal team to manage them. And commonly, this is indeed the case.

Digital channels (e.g. social media and live chat) on the other hand are seen as being much cheaper. It takes far less ‘man-power’ to run these channels but it frequently concludes in lower quality communications with the customer. Companies take digital too far and rely on robotic communications that don’t create outstanding customer experiences.

What Alex, quite rightly, points out in his article is that we can balance the human element of traditional channels and the efficiency of digital. If you are to do this in your business, you’re able to make your prospects and customers happier, you’re able to increase conversion and retention, and you can do it all with a fantastic level of ROI.


We’re not ready for Skynet just yet

robotic communicationNew technology and better automation software means that marketers (and customer service agents) are able to reach more consumers in a shorter space of time. Huzzah!

Consumers aren’t as enthusiastic however. Consumers don’t want generic communications from the brands that they interact with. They want personal interactions that allow them to build a relationship. That’s right…we actually want to become friends with brands we buy from!

And what defines a quality sales and marketing team is the same as it’s always been you see: the ability to build relationships. So you should be building relationships to make your customers and your bottom line happier. But if you’ve gone too robotic with digital or traditional, you don’t have any hope of making real connections with consumers.

We’ve grown up watching the Terminator franchise and we’re desperate to create tech that pretends to be people. It’s all fake though. Robots don’t do real empathy even if they are programmed to say “I’m sorry to hear that”.

Technology really isn’t anywhere near replicating human behaviour and conversations just yet. We’re still getting robotic responses, lack of conversational tone and irrelevant information – that’s all automated DMs and virtual agents seem to provide half the time. This means you lose the opportunity to build an emotional bond and find out what customers want.


Automate to free up humans?

As Alex says, technology should not replace human interactions. Purely automated interactions don’t provide the same quality or level of experience for the customer.

Automated social media SaaS providers such as Edgar even say for themselves that real live humans will always win on digital channels like social media.

But how do you find enough resources to write each and every personal, human message? It’s expensive to train up a full team in-house and restructure your organisation to handle this new operation. There is the outsourcing option. If you choose the right provider for you, this can produce a much better ROI than operating in-house.

Banks offshoring their call centres (only to bring them back when they realised we wanted a real conversation with the people handling our money – without a language gap), left a bit of a bad taste in our mouths.

Find an organisation with agents that have the same native tongue as your customers and can provide quality human interactions via digital channels though and problem solved. A better experience for your customers that creates a much greater ROI for your marketing and customer service activities. More leads and more loyal customers.

Whether you choose digital or traditional channels, you need to remember that building relationships and human emotion is key. Even if you’re not using an automated system, your real people could still have as much personality as a Tamagotchi.

Scripted conversations that lack a little passion miss the mark. “Do this then do that” just screams poor customer experience. You need to make sure that people use their personalities too.


Why have just 1 conversation at a time?

“Crucially, technology should not replace human interaction; it should free up time for greater human interaction”- another gem from Alex.

Some traditional channels, such as telephone support, really are inefficient. You can only talk to one person at a time, despite the fact that every communication has idle time.

Digital channels give you the ability to have more than one conversation at one time – without being rude! Whilst your customer or lead searches for their product number or types out their reply, you could answer the questions of a couple of other people in need. Hey presto! You’ve helped 3 people rather than just 1.

You need to make sure that your representatives can manage multiple conversations effectively however. You don’t want a marriage between digital channels and people to result in lower quality interactions – the digital channel should free up time for greater human interaction, not just more of them.

Response times should be quicker and satisfaction levels should be higher.

That’s not the only way that digital channels should free up time for greater interactions. Proactive support means that you interact with those that need your help the most – valuable customers that can’t find their answers in FAQs. Proactive live chat can free up time for better customer service and marketing interactions, by encouraging agents to only interact with relevant website visitors.

Chat with people that need your help or are genuinely interested in your business. Focus on using your resources to provide the most valuable people an outstanding experience.


Super personalised hello

personalisationIt’s worth bearing in mind that not all automated communication has to be robotic and impersonal however.

With all of the data that is now being collected as we browse the web, it’s increasingly possible to tailor the messaging, creative, timing and precise channel of digital contact by demographics, purchasing history, recent behaviour and more. There are parts of your marketing and customer service processes that you definitely should automate, because even if a human was to type out each and every one of them (each time) they wouldn’t be able to make it any more personal than a bit of clever programming would.

Even from systems that we know are automated, we want personalisation. We want newsletters with our name on, rather than being greeted with “hello you”, and we want eCommerce websites to make apt product recommendations.

82% of online shoppers want automatic discounts at checkout for loyalty points or coupons. 54% want complementary item suggestions.

Study your analytics data to create timely, targeted interactions with live chat. Greet customers and prospects based on where they are in the website journey.

Hook up your CRM to systems such as your automated live chat and ticketing greetings. Greet customers and prospects not only by name, but also personalise the greeting based on the content they have read, the pages they have previously viewed and even their geo-location.

You can’t rely on this technology throughout the conversation of course. This is just for a super personalised hello. The rest of the conversation must be delivered by a real human to build those real relationships remember, you don’t want a robotic chat.

I think that the main thing to remember isn’t “digital or traditional”. The main thing to take away from the article is that you can use one or the other, or a combination of both. Whichever channel you use (and however you deploy it) keeping quality interactions is key.

You need to use the right tone, language and human emotion in order to make a connection with your prospects and customers.

Digital channels should be delivered with passion and personality so that agents can build relationships. Make sure you keep your real human relationships at the heart of your communications, so that they have a useful and emotional impact.

Think about how your business can find the right mix of traditional and digital channels.
This blog post was originally posted on The Chat Shop blog.
Images courtesy of Giphy.

Miles Hobson
The Chat Shop
Miles Hobson is Content Manager at The Chat Shop. Miles produces insightful content that allows companies in an array of industries to increase their sales and make customers happy.


  1. Balance, per your post, is the secret sauce of effective communication is, per your post, And, alanced communication and customer relationship-building = omnichannel, outbound and inbound availability. B2b and B2c consumers are omnichannel, and companies need to conform to be successful.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here