Modern online tools for customer communications
Reflecting the rapid development of new online communication technologies, the relationship between a company and its customer has evolved. The latest web technologies not only allow an almost unlimited availability of information, but they also offer unique presentation possibilities and a wide range of interaction opportunities. In addition, the integration of mobile devices opens up completely new dimensions in customer communication. Through the development of integrated communication approaches and sophisticated use of state-of-the-art online tools, W&H Dentalwerk Bürmoos has for many years worked on facilitating intensive dialogue with dental equipment users all around the world.
Employing innovative applications of the latest communication technologies is very important to W&H. Dr Martina Banze, Marketing Director at W&H Dentalwerk, and Dr Corinna Dunst from the eMarketing team are convinced that online communication offers unique opportunities for attending to customer requirements more comprehensively and directly. In order to satisfy these demands, our company is concentrating on the needs of its target groups even before implementing new online tools. One thing is certain: customer feedback and input from international markets are crucial for the success of modern communication tools. In a detailed interview, Dr Martina Banze and Dr Corinna Dunst provided an insight into the strategic application of the latest online technologies at W&H.
What do you feel are the current trends when it comes to communicating with customers in the dental industry?
Dr. Banze: As the latest figures show, online channels are becoming more and more important in our communications. Technology is developing fast these days, and younger generations of our customers are high users of electronic media. For this reason, I see online communication not simply as an opportunity but much more as essential for successful companies. Younger generations use mobile devices much more intensively and feel at home with electronic media. Consequently, state-of-the-art communication technologies are ideal for providing comprehensive service to our customers and promoting loyalty to the company from an early stage.
What technologies does W&H offer its customers online?
Dr. Dunst: We offer our customers the whole range of available online communications. This starts with web sites such as wh.com, which will shortly be available in a total of 16 different languages, and also whdentalcampus, which is aimed at dental students. And it is also obvious that we must be active in social media. We started expanding our YouTube efforts at a very early stage and also have a wide range of targeted offers on Facebook. Many of our sales and distribution colleagues are also active in the field of social media, in other words we are all communicating across different platforms.
In the mobile sector, we were the first dental manufacturer in the world to get to grips with augmented reality technologies. At present, we offer our customers information via our news app and our augmented reality app, which are experience-oriented and can be viewed from anywhere and at any time. The wh.com website is still definitely the most popular with our customers, but the social media and mobile platforms are catching up quickly. Our website is being accessed more and more often via mobile devices and consequently it is very important to us that our Internet platforms are 100% mobile-compatible.
What needs to be taken into account when using these tools?
Dr. Banze: When it comes to using the tools, we definitely favour a holistic approach. Of course, when it comes to items such as product launches or other special topics, we use a range of different channels and media. The content must always be adapted to suit the target audience. A press release published in printed media is totally different from a news item posted on Facebook. While it is true that the same messages are also communicated on our website, the wording and the way our target audiences are addressed must also be styled differently. As a result, our task is to approach the users of various tools directly.
Can you tell us how you manage to guarantee being so close to the customers at W&H?
Dr. Dunst: In all our online communication projects, we always try to get the customer on board. That means that we foster direct contact with our customers and listen to what they have to say in order to find out more about their wishes and needs. As part of the relaunch of wh.com, we carried out extensive market research across the globe in a number of languages. Thousands of responses are clear proof of the great importance of modern Internet and online technologies for our customers. The extensive feedback allowed us to define exactly what our new website had to include.
In addition to this market research, which we perform for all our projects, we are also in continuous contact with our subsidiaries. They also provide us with valuable feedback and input from their markets. This information is also incorporated and integrated into our projects.
wh.com was recently relaunched. Which customer wishes were implemented?
Dr. Dunst: In the run-up to our relaunch, we used the feedback from our customers and subsidiaries to draw up a list of over 1,300 requirements, which we then incorporated into the new website. One new feature, for example, is the comprehensive product section, which offers all current state-of-the-art functions. This includes a 360° product animation, comprehensive product presentations and technical data as well as dental videos showing all our products in use.
Another considerable customer requirement that we had to take into consideration was the implementation of an efficient service section. This includes not only countless video tutorials but also a download centre with documents in more than 30 different languages and an FAQ section.
Where do you see the opportunities and risks when it comes to using the latest communication technologies?
Dr. Banze: There are different assessment criteria for opportunities and risks with new communication technologies. Our primary obligation is to meet the growing information requirements of our target audiences with increased use of a range of electronic tools. That allows us to fulfil the customers' wish to access information at any time of the day or night. On the other hand, it is of course possible to place even more emphasis on target audiences’ usage of electronic media and address customers even more closely by positioning the products in the various media.
As far as risks are concerned, I do not really see many. There is always the possibility that customers and interested parties will not utilise online offers. However, I have complete confidence in the wh.com project as, on the basis of an international customer survey and massive input from our sales subsidiaries, we have ensured that our online communication offers are tailored to our customers and provide optimal support for them in their search for information. Above all, it is important that sufficient resources are available for this type of large project. You need to meet customers at their level and take them seriously.
Can you give us a general forecast for the future of this topic?
Dr. Dunst: From a professional perspective, it is safe to say that W&H already has a complete repertoire in terms of online communication. Ongoing research into current trends has made us a leader in the field and that is exactly where we want to stay. After all, rapidly available, extensive information is decisive when it comes to customer communication.
Dr. Banze: We always attempt to incorporate the experiences of our customers and for us it is of course important to see in which direction customer trends are headed. What tools do our target audiences use? What are the contemporary trends? It goes without saying that we are following these developments intently and using a range of tools to observe which online offers are becoming more attractive and which are losing their significance over time.
All in all, the new wh.com also offers an excellent basis for customer dialogues with our global sales force. Everything is available at all times and is oriented towards the customer, in other words, it is not only the customer who benefits from the use of our modern online tools – our sales colleagues do too!
Thank you for that enlightening discussion!