Customer experience is as much of an art as it is a science. Factors that influence the success or failure of customer experiences can be elusive and broad. Sure, we could look at customers’ top priorities when it comes to interacting with a brand, like speed or a knowledgeable agent, but often these individual characteristics don’t tell the whole story.
The complexity of customer experience makes it difficult to pinpoint a failure on one thing. You could call a brand, speak with a very friendly agent and still have a bad experience. Or, you could call a brand, have zero wait time, and still have a bad experience. After all, speed of service means nothing if the customer isn’t getting what they came for.
We talk a lot about the importance of a holistic solution. It’s all about bringing together technology, design, and data for an integrated and successful result. But in this blog, we are going to shift the conversation to, well, conversation.
Conversation is at the heart of building relationships. It’s the foundation for turning a customer into a loyal customer. It’s what takes communication from transactional to personal.
And yet, brands continue to lose sight of the importance of conversation. Instead of using technology to increase the quality of conversation in their business, they use automation technology to turn conversations into transactional communication.
What’s the problem with this? Let’s explore what a conversation really is to determine the answer.
What is conversation?
We define conversation as an interactive, natural, and productive exchange of information.
When conversation is replaced with a more transactional form of communication, the margin for error increases. You may be thinking, “I just want to get my question answered quickly, I don’t care if it’s conversational.” This is how many brands have mistakenly approached the situation as well.
Without conversation, communication becomes unnatural and creates misunderstandings and extra steps in the process. In the end, non-conversational communication can actually increase the time it takes to get to a resolution.
Conversations facilitate an efficient and productive interaction because it allows customers to speak naturally and on their own terms. For example, is it easier for a customer to dig through nine or more options in a menu tree, or simply articulate in a sentence why they are calling?
Can conversation be automated?
With the right technology and design, yes. The key to conversation being automated is around the application’s ability to understand and carry context throughout the conversation. This all contributes to a human-like conversation.
Human-like conversation refers to the intuitive speaking and progression of conversation that is needed for a smooth communication. In fact, even human agents can deliver unnatural and complicated conversations. So it’s important for brands to understand the best practices to incorporate true conversation in customer experience. Here are three considerations:
Allow the customer to lead
The way that a call is started can set the tone for the whole conversation. Consider leading with an open ended question, such as “How can I help you?” to let the customer know that they can steer the conversation where they need. Conversational AI that is able to understand intent is essential for this to work for automated systems.
Make the customer feel known
Could you imagine having a conversation with someone and having to reintroduce yourself every time you talk? That’s what most relationships between a brand and a customer are like today. No, we can’t expect a contact center agent to remember every customer that has called before. But, brand’s can integrate data across systems that bring them up to speed in the blink of an eye.
Personalization is a major part of turning a transaction into a conversation. By knowing a customer’s past purchases, preferences, and conversation topics, human and virtual agents can tailor the conversation as if they remember them. This can also save time. For example, the customer would not have to repeat a past issue that has occurred again, they can get to solving the issue at hand more quickly.
Beyond the conversation
The manner in which a brand follows up after a conversation (if at all) can impact the customer’s view of the organization.
Last week I was refilling a prescription with an online pharmacy. When I got off the phone, they texted me my order confirmation and a link to my account if I wanted to confirm my transaction. The call itself was with an automated system and was fine, but after receiving the text in combination with the call, I was officially impressed.
When a conversation with a brand is too transactional, it will lack these extensions of service that make the customer feel valued. Supporting the customer beyond the initial interaction, either through text or email, can create a more human-like level of service.
Where to begin?
To learn more about Conversational AI applications that can support customer experience, check out our guide.