In person conversations are deliciously messy, and that’s why they are so effective. Conversations naturally allow space for people to express emotions and immediately respond to someone’s thoughts and intentions. They are often spontaneous responses which are not fully thought through. They don’t allow time for crafted messaging. And that spontaneity in itself gives them power and meaning. Although it is counterintuitive, space for nonsense in conversation is endearing to both customers and employees. That’s where people can experience each other’s personalities, or their true selves, and fully express their emotions. This is why in-person conversations allow true connection. It’s not about the facts; it’s about emotional engagement and how people feel after the exchange.
Again, it goes against our logical understanding of the world, but structured flows and linear thinking won’t necessarily help anyone establish a conversation, never mind a relationship. People don’t share neatly packaged groups of facts. You get what they give through banter and trial and error. Again, it’s messy, but that’s how people communicate.
Digital methods, like text messages, live chat, and emails, provide us with a way to have edited conversation, trying not to be messy but direct, polite and to the point. Although it feels streamlined and effective, it doesn’t provide the type of emotional connection that we need to build a relationship. We don’t always understand intentions or motivations through such types of messages, unless we use emojis or someone understands our unique lexicon to express specific ideas or feelings. It is only through spoken words and the tone of voice someone uses and his or her facial expressions that emotional connection is possible.
But the electronic forms of in-person conversations do provide us with entry to live conversation mainly because a person is present behind the digital interaction. That person, although he or she is editing the conversation, can help provide customers with solutions, brainstorm ideas, and collaborate. And if electronic media becomes too cumbersome to communicate effectively, then he or she can transition the digital conversation to a phone call, video conference, or live meeting. A bot doesn’t accommodate a large range of choices and topics in conversation like a live person does. Often, it is the live person who will get the desired results in any business conversation. In-person conversations are a great communication method for topics that follow multiple, unexpected paths or cover a large range of perspectives.
We can’t forget that people build relationships and do business together on behalf of their companies. And let’s face it, conversations are an integral part of that process. They existed for centuries before websites and apps and were the original business communication medium. They are the basis for automated methods of communications.
To be clear, this video is not an insights video where you can discover the connection between ideas to get a revelation or epiphany. This is a resource video to guide you when you are creating your plans. It will provide instruction about what these types of conversation experiences are, how to use them, and how to measure their effectiveness.
This video includes information found in the book, Revenue or Relationships? Win Both, to guide you in using different communication methods to achieve goals as defined in your customer relationship lifecycle strategy to build better customer relationships.
In-person conversations represents one of four quadrants that I outline. The quadrant chart presents how you can look at communication approaches as conversation methods to engage customers and build customer relationships in business. You could say that this quadrant helps you develop a content or custom communication strategy because what is content but a way to have a virtual conversation with a customer?
The quadrant defines these conversation methods using two axes.
On one axis, we map the delivery method of a communication, which could be anything between an in-person interaction or automated or digital experience. On the other axis, we map if an experience more closely resembles an interactive experience that requires actions with a person, system, product or service or an interaction only between two people or a person and system, which allows for a more personalized experience.
In-person conversations are some of the most effective ways for a customer to get answers to direct questions that may not be supported through self-service methods. These questions may arise during research in an automated, digital experience or an automated conversation; after a product demo or trial; or some other experience. In this method, the customer can access a company representative to guide the conversation and both can collaborate to resolve an issue. Often the customer initiates the conversation (sometimes the company does), creating an experience with the company. This makes in-person conversation a more intimate approach than online methods. As discussed earlier, emotions can be easily expressed, communicated, and understood in this medium, increasing connection and intimacy between the people involved. This more easily builds empathy, and therefore compassion, between customers and employees, which in the end, builds trust with a company.
Similar to the automated conversation, a customer can get a response to his or her specific situation. However, in this case, it’s not a generalized experience. The employee helps the customer establish priorities and values regarding the problems in his or her life to better understand how the company’s solution can help him best.
In-person conversations can occur through the company, influencers or customers. Influencers and customers are supporting word-of-mouth marketing methods.
Examples of some of these activities for both company and customer generated conversations include phone calls, emails or texts, live chat, and in-person discussions or meetings.
Conversations allow a customer the freedom to express themselves and their needs without worrying whether or not their question is supported by a system or if they need to find an answer in a forum or database, on a site, or somewhere else. There are no limits to how communication can evolve in a live conversation. As discussed previously, automated conversation are typically pre-defined and limited in their range of topics.
However, in person conversations can be costly to support because you need humans available to have them. And paying people to have conversations can be more expensive than maintaining a bot or a site or app. That’s why so many times call centers get outsourced. Some managers and executives don’t see the value. But if they could see the direct benefit conversation bring by building closer relationships with your customers, it may be worth the cost to them. To me, they are priceless! You can’t have enough in-person conversations.
There are a few ways we can define success after experiencing an in-person conversation. These include customer satisfaction scoring like net promoter score, improved issue resolution, and tracking how the conversations are leading to a sale. The measurements for this approach can include more emotional considerations than others. You could measure if the customer felt the agent’s or employee’s response was adequate or exceeded expectations, if he or she thought the conversation was helpful, if the agent resolved the issue in a single call or multiple calls, or if the agent seemed friendly.
One interesting metric for this medium is the time or length of a conversation. This can be an indicator of relationship building and/or efficiency to resolve an issue. A conservation in-person could take less time than automated conversations because you are able to get to the point faster making it easier to answer/resolve issues. A conversation to build a relationship could take more time because you are establishing commonality and connection before solving a problem. You can also consider the date/time, topic and other descriptive factors to provide insight into the conversations, what the customer needed, and why they needed it. Understanding your customer’s needs can help your company better serve them in the future through automation with products, information, transactions, and if possible, collaboration.
This is where an activity like content analysis be useful. Content analysis can provide insights into conversation types and topics by classifying the responses. To do this, you could record and transcribe conversations and then tag them in different ways to gain insights about common trends in conversation topics. This would help you understand your customer’s challenges and what they perceive as benefits of your company’s solution. Yes, tagging would be involved to quantify the text and value, but you could discover what customers truly need. You could also determine if there is an easier way to communicate with your customers about certain topics or issues or a better message to use.
With content analysis, you could also validate if the brand values are being properly communicated through word choice and tone in conversation. Deviating from the brand could impact a customer’s experience, possibly making it inconsistent from other experiences with the company.
Regarding qualitative measurements, you could consider inquiring about the adequacy of content topics, appropriate tone, approach taken to solve the problem, and the resolution presented and if it is acceptable and useful. There are already a number of types of surveys available to measure this and other factors after calls, so I won’t go through those measurements.
A learning you can get from this conversation medium is a list of conversation topics that could be automated. You could either create a list of frequently asked questions or develop a conversation flow in a chatbot to make it easier to access some information. You could also gather product feedback from support calls and use that information to identify features that could improve your products. Conversations could inspire your team as input for additional research on different topics, features, or ideas for new products or services. As customers identify new problems or challenges when using your product and contact your team for help, these conversations could spark innovative ideas. In a way, it’s through these conversations that you are including ccustomers into your company’s community to be part of your company. Conversations between your employees and customers can provide so many insights to your business and products and services. You just need to know how to access them to benefit your company in the best way.
To build strong connections with customer you need to have conversations. If your employees can’t interact directly with customers, you can’t help your customers solve their problems and improve that connection to build a better relationship. The connections and ideas expressed during these activities help you better understand your customer needs so you can create new products and services to help them even more. Conversations provide a way for employees and customers to connect through compassion and build those necessary emotional bonds while collaborating to solve problems, which in the end, create a great relationship.
More to come. I hope this was helpful. Have a great day!
At-a-Glance Summary of the Four Quadrants
Automated, Digital Individualized Experiences
Potential Content Creators
Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (analyst firms, review and content creation companies), press, potentially customers
Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (search engines, social media, chatbot companies)
Customers and influencers unlikely
Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (call centers), customers
Mainly companies and third-parties (event hosting companies, analyst firms, store fronts)
Less likely: customers, influencers (e.g. Meetups)
Customer discovers general information
Customer finds information that solves their problem
Customer gets referred to a person or resource
Customer discovers specific information that solves their problem
Employee can connect emotionally with the customer
Customer discovers how a product or service could help him or her
Employee can connect emotionally with the customer