Communication in any relationship is complicated and always evolving. Here’s what modern dating can teach organizations about how to communicate with their customers today.

I was in a relationship for a few years, and I think in the time I was in the relationship, all dating communication went exclusively to text. You can’t call anybody anymore. If you call people: 'What, are you on fire? Quit wasting my time. Text me that s***!' 

Aziz Ansari, "Dangerously Delicious"

Dating is complicated. Communication in a relationship is even more complicated. When should you text after a first date? And what should you say? Why didn’t they call me back?

In today’s dating world, the number of ways to communicate is incredible. We have unofficial rules of engagement, preferences for when we talk to each other through each channel, and unwritten expectations. These expectations follow us through many aspects of our lives, from how we communicate in our personal relationships to how we buy products or services and interact with private and public sector organizations.

Understanding these unwritten expectations is an important lesson for private and public sector organizations. Knowing where to talk to someone, when to talk to someone, and how to coordinate and craft those communication efforts are three key elements of an effective omni-channel communication strategy (and an effective dating strategy).

Here’s how dating can help your organization think about an effective omni-channel communication strategy:

We’re a match made in heaven.

First, understand where someone prefers to communicate, and meet them there. Should you text, make a call, or send a message through one of the various preferred mobile apps? Every channel should be considered as an equally important opportunity to connect with an individual customer and flexed to respond to individual customer needs. According to Deloitte Digital’s New Digital Divide study, mobile influences 19 percent of $4.1 trillion of in-store retail sales. Mobile takes many forms, and it cannot be ignored.

We need to break up.

Depending on how dire the situation, a conversation in person or a phone call is necessary. A text, email, or sad-face emoji usually isn’t a good way to resolve an issue. Throughout a customer’s journey with an organization, different moments require different channels. A standard request could be handled through email, while a technical issue might need to be resolved in person. Anticipating and understanding a customer’s contextual relationship with an organization can inform what channel to use to engage with that customer to best meet their needs.

I'm willing to give you a second chance.

Did you see that text message, get distracted by an app notification, and then forget to respond? Miscommunication happens—we’re human, after all. But when it happens consistently, and coordination across channels is constantly dropped or mishandled, maybe it’s time to look at the back-end processes that are in place and the culture of an organization. Does the technology system support seamless coordination for your customer service team? Is everyone in the organization bought into the omni-channel communication strategy? It’s at this point in time when an omni-channel communication strategy (or dating strategy) is put to the test.

Those three little words.

When done right, it’s happily ever after. Combining an understanding of communication channel preferences in the context of specific customer interactions and coordinating a seamless hand-off between back-end departments—moving an organization from a siloed to interdependent entity— is pretty much like true love. By thinking of an omni-channel communications strategy like modern dating, it’s easy to see how, with the right approach, building and growing relationships is the best thing ever.

Akshai Prakash is a manager in the Deloitte Digital office based in Washington, D.C. He is part of the Digital Government and Strategy competency and can be found sharing insights on the digital transformation in government on Twitter @akprakas.

Ashley Starks Amin creates at the intersection of design and technology—to build better solutions for citizens and our communities. She is a senior consultant with Deloitte Digital and a master’s candidate in Strategic Design and Management at Parsons New School for Design.