Right person, right place, right time…. right environment: some thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of multichannel customer communications.

I spoke at three conferences last month and one thing that came up every time was “what do you think about email and SMS convergence on mobile phones”.

It’s a subject that was in my mind anyway as my annual mobile upgrade cut in and I once again tried to figure out which gadget was going to rule my life for the next 12 months – and, surprise surprise, messaging is at the heart of that decision for me.

Getting (and sending) emails on mobiles is getting a lot more… well, mobile-like. Contact with a lot of my friends, colleagues etc is increasingly a narrow call between messaging types.

But for marketers, the spam bar is set far higher. I believe people are far less tolerant of unanticipated messages on mobiles than they are on their PC.

There are also issues about content and convenience. The monthly book reivew I get from a national newspaper via email would be perfect tube fodder, except that the text version (i.e. the one I get on my mobile) says I need to view this in html… which I can’t get underground.

At the heart of email / SMS convergence is customer convenience and personal choice. Banks offering balance updates by SMS is a successful service because it is opted in (and paid for!) and has a high level of privacy and immediacy.

In other words, the message needs to be right for the customer, and right for the way the customer sees it, whether that’s by SMS, RSS, email or carrier pigeon.