Conversation is the heart of all relationships
Conversation holds great power in relationships. Without conversation, trust cannot be built and information cannot be exchanged. You can’t get to know another person truly without communicating with them.
Similar to a relationship between two people, relationships between customers and brands also need conversation as a foundational part of success. If something goes wrong during a transaction or with a product or service, the customer needs to trust that they work with the brand to solve the issue.
With an increased focus on customer experience during the last decade, brands have been exploring the way that conversation can add value to their business. You may have heard of conversational marketing, a term used to describe the increased casual communication between customers and brands.
Bridging this gap between customers and brands is key to keeping customers engaged for years to come. After all, it’s not easy to build a relationship with a seemingly corporate or robotic brand.
So the issue becomes: how can brands create authentic, quality conversations with customers without increasing operational costs? Enter technology.
Is technology helping or hindering conversation?
It depends. On one hand, technology has the potential to deliver quality conversation to customers at scale. How else can businesses that receive thousands of calls every hour expect to keep pace? But this only happens if the technology meets certain requirements.
Technology also has the potential to impair conversation with customers. If self-service cannot provide human levels of communication, then transactions fall flat and lose value. In many circumstances, subpar technology prevents customers from even being able to complete the tasks that they intended.
To really understand how technology applications need to be designed to meet customer expectations, there needs to be emphasis on building quality conversation flows.
What makes a good conversation?
According to a 2019 study by Cornell University, “a good conversation requires balance — between simplicity and detail; staying on topic and changing it; asking questions and answering them.”
This idea of balance can directly relate to conversations between customers and brands:
Simplicity vs. Details
Have you ever called a customer service line, and spent the first 2 minutes listening to the machine talk about things not related to your call? Just last week, I called the social security customer service line to get a new card. It took 2 minutes and 15 seconds for the machine to finally ask what I was looking to do on the call.
This is a perfect example of automation technology giving too much information. It’s common to hear about the “one-breath rule.” This rule basically states that when an automated machine speaks, it should only say as much as possible in one breath.
Try it out for yourself. It’s often not more than one or two short sentences. This guideline prevents wasting the customer’s time, and ensures that only the most information is being communicated.
Staying on topic vs. changing it
For automated conversations, this mostly refers to maintaining context and allowing freedom for the customer to control conversation. Chatbots are infamous for forgetting context. If you say one wrong keyword, it thinks that you’re talking about something completely different.
That being said, there are times that automation should support the changing of topics. For example, a customer should be able to both reset their password and update their shipping address in the same interaction.
What both of these concepts boils down to is the ability for customers to control the conversation, and the automation technology’s ability to keep pace.
Asking questions vs. answering them
This one seems straightforward, but is actually often overlooked and not given adequate attention to be advantageous. When it comes to technology, it is especially important to have the ability to answer questions with accuracy and relevancy.
A lot of early automation technology was based on simple, rule-based answer bots. These glorified FAQ machines left a bad taste in customers’ mouths, and for good reason. They never really answered the question that customers wanted.
For example, if you were to ask, when will my order arrive?, the chatbot probably said something along the lines of you can track your shipment using the code in your confirmation email. So yes, in this example the question is answered, but not in the way that the customer wanted. And it is requiring additional customer effort, which detracts from customer experience.
Conversations create loyalty
When customers feel trust with a brand, they are more likely to stick around. Building trust requires genuine conversation and connection on every single touchpoint with the brand. It’s not enough simply to have great customer conversations during the purchase process, but across the entire customer journey.
Technology is vital to bringing this concept to reality. To learn more about Conversational AI technology, check out our whitepaper.