Customer sees the brand as an influence for in-person conversations
Another way, but in my opinion a more concrete way, to measure if an influencer, prospect, or customer trusts your company is by tracking the calls, emails, and texts your company gets from customers. Because this direct communication is obviously a type of conversation, it is also a type of content and could be measured using content analysis. Some questions you may want to ask yourself about your company regarding these conversations:
First, before you start, do you track your incoming customer calls, emails, text, and chats? If you don’t already, you may want to start.
Then, do you know if customers are contacting your company for advice or help?
Are they asking questions within your area of expertise or just outside of it?
Do your customers rely on your advice, products, and services to achieve their goals?
Has your product or solution influenced or enacted change in your customer’s lives after experiencing your product and working with you?
If you answer yes to these questions, you are seeing signals of your customers building trust with your company. If you can track who is contacting your company, what your customers are asking, what type of advice they want, when they call, and how frequently, you can understand a lot about them. And if you gather all this information and notice that this goes beyond customers to include prospects or influencers, that’s even better. You will definitely notice trends from this data.
If you have a high percentage of calls or contacts that request information or help, you could say you have earned strong trust with customers. They value your opinion and want advice regarding how to use your product in a better way. And they feel comfortable enough to reach out directly to your company to do that.
This is why I don’t see support calls as being a bad thing. People are calling your company for help. Sure, you need to staff a call center to support that, but would you rather have your customers NOT call you for help and stop using your product?
Now, to measure your customer conversations, you will be tracking similar elements as you would for content that has been created and published on your site. Many of you already know this and probably have some type of call tracking system in place. But if not, note that call centers already have dozens of metrics in place that can help with understanding how customers engage through in-person conversations. However, for this analysis to identify opportunities for building customer relationships and loyalty, I’m looking to analyze less about the caller, but more about the conversation content, using content analysis approaches, and with that, gain insight into the customer relationship.
Who is calling?
In the same way you want to know who is reading or watching your company’s content and having that automated conversation experience, you will want to know who from what organization is calling, texting, or emailing. And don’t forget to get that person’s role in that organization. Knowing all this information can help you see trends like if people from specific companies are calling more frequently about certain issues or if a specific individual is more attached to your company or salesperson or if this person or company contacts support frequently because he or she uses a product more often or has an ongoing issue. Once you know who is calling and the general topic they are calling about, you’ll want to know who is being called—an individual or a department. From this analysis you may discover that there is a great relationship between specific customers and their salespeople that needs to be preserved. Or if people are calling about a specific issue, you may notice a trend in callers looking or a specific set of functionalities, so you know with certainty that by adding that feature, you would help a set of customers do what they need done. This already happens in many organizations today. There’s no limit where this analysis could lead to build a better customer relationships and connection to your customers them solve their problems.
Method of contact?
You will also want to track the method of contact used for communication, too. Like is it video, voice, email, live chat, text. A phone or video call in itself communicates that there is a stronger connection between two parties than an email or live chat or text. Emotion isn’t easily expressed through typed communication except if it includes emojis and other elements. The written word can build connection but it’s not the same as spoken communication or even in-person communication. Emotion is expressed more easily through voice tonality and facial expressions, as well as physical gestures among people who share the same culture. Cultural differences can cause miscommunications; it’s why sometimes being direct is best in a multi-cultural situation with many primary languages and a shared second language. However, generally, the more emotion that can be expressed in a communication medium, the easier it is to connect emotionally with others to build a close relationship for loyalty to blossom.
Call length and call frequency together imply a strong or weak connection
The length of a conversation compared with frequency can indicate connectedness and trust. A longer conversation can indicate a more connected relationship because we could assume that most likely not just business is happening on such a call. There may be a personal conversation happening that builds connection. Alternatively, a short conversation may also indicate a close connection because a relationship exists already between the company or employee and the customer on the phone, so there is no need to build rapport or connection. That’s why additional analysis is needed to determine if a connection already exists. And conversation frequency together with conversation length can better indicate this.
So, some elements to consider that indicate connection:
Length of a relationship between the customer and the employee he or she spoke with. Is it minutes, days, months, years? A newer relationship between a customer an employee may need longer calls to build rapport.
Then add the consideration of contact frequency to this
What is the length of the customer’s relationship with the company in general? Is this a new customer? A long-time customer? That is a factor in the analysis.
Look at the total time a customer is in conversations with sales versus customer support and service versus the total time with the company. That will indicate a lot about the conversations being had and where the customer relationship lies. There may be a closer relationship with a department like sales or support or a relationship with a person that you should consider when evaluating closeness.
A customer contacting sales more frequently may indicate that the customer is connected with the sales team and possibly, a specific salesperson. That customer built a strong bond with him or her. Or it may indicate the caller’s role. That person may not use the product and may be a purchasing decision maker.
A customer contacting support or service more frequently may indicate that:
Their initial introduction to the company was through support so they have a stronger relationship there than sales or rather, feel more comfortable working with that team
Or the individual wants to make the product work for them to solve their problem and will work with the company to do that
Or there is a stronger relationship between that customer and that associated employee. That employee then becomes the contact to call or the “it” person.
Increased contact frequency may indicate a closer relationship or tighter connection between the company and customer. Like with content access, frequent calls to a specific salesperson or employee may indicate greater trust and a stronger, closer working relationship. For example, using the product or service may be related to that customer’s job so they have to call more often. However, that person’s manager may call more often because he or she sees the results and wants to optimize that for their company.
Notice the connection points and the customer’s role as well. Note that there may not be the same relationship between the customer and the company as there is between the customer and employee, and that’s okay. Trust to build brand loyalty will develop from that employee-customer relationship over time. Business is between people, not entities and people. If you can remember that you can build a stronger business through customer relationships established by your employee teams. Encourage them to make that a priority.
Call Topics: Type of request or Subject of the call
And don’t forget to track the topics prospects or customers are calling about. We touched on this in the beginning. There are two aspects of this—the type of request and the topic or subject of the call. Incoming calls or emails could be for help, a repair, a sale, or a complaint—or a type of request. You could measure how many sales and complaint calls occur compared to informational or support calls. The topics people contact your company about should map to what your company does—either regarding the why behind the solution or the product or service itself. If not, then you have a disconnect. But the topic and conversations should help you understand how your influencers, prospects, and customers are connecting with your company and how they see your company. And if these callers are contributing revenue, then their perspective of the problem your company solves is consistent with your company’s view. It’s a validation point for you to know you are properly communicating the message regarding the problem you solve to at least one group.
You may discover that callers don’t contact the right teams to ask the right questions, and that’s okay. They are connecting with groups they are comfortable working with, and that relationship should help you better understand the ties between the customer, prospect or influencer and the company. Review not just the call transfers but the type of customer that is doing that—role and customer company—to better understand what’s happening and gain insight into that relationship and connection.
Contact in the Customer Journey
From this conversation analysis, you can also try to understand the types of questions asked along the customer journey. This would help the team developing content to support customers better or help support and product development fix product or service issues along the way. You may record such customer conversations, and if you do, you can do a content analysis on those recordings to determine the conversation topic and where in the journey the customer is. If not, you can include fields that record that information in your call center software and in your call scripts. You may be able to create self-service content to support these customers or your staff to provide quick answers or this information may identify a larger issue.
Conversations and Follow-up Actions : Collaboration and Brainstorming
In addition to tracking topics and mapping them to the customer journey or lifecycle steps, it would also be great to track if there is action or no action required on the company’s side as part of that customer conversation. Action items after a conversation imply relationship building not from the conversation’s complexity, but through the need for the customer and company to collaborate towards meeting a goal – solving the customer’s problem. Complex questions requiring follow-up can build trust because of the problem solving, brainstorming and collaboration required to achieve that joint goal. In the video, “Post-Purchase: Where Loyalty and Community Is Built,” I use Six Conversation Types Mapped to the Four Customer Relationship Lifecycle Steps to help explain the various communication layers present in that post-purchase step. In that chart, relationship building occurs just before collaboration and brainstorming. Why? Let’s look at the definition of each:
Relationship-Building: These conversations occur throughout the customer lifecycle. Actually, that’s the purpose of conversations and business—exchanging information, building trust, but most of all, creating an emotional connection.
Collaboration/ Brainstorming: Both parties involved need to have a strong relationship before they can feel comfortable collaborating to solve a problem.
Relationships are key to solving problems, which is why you need a strong relationship with your customer if you want to solve their problems and encourage them to purchase from you. It’s hard to collaborate or brainstorm with someone you have no relationship with or don’t trust. And if you are in a situation where you do collaborate with someone you just met; you will most likely develop a relationship with that person because it is required before you can have that collaborative conversation. Needless to say, this idea implies that loyalty is required if you want a long-term relationship with your customers to continue such collaboration and problem solving.
Now, what may signal a lack of trust in your customer relationship is if the customer insists on getting an issue resolved within a single contact point because the company doesn’t follow-up. In this case, there may not be a strong relationship between the customer and company. Complex questions can expose a lot about your company and culture. You may get a number of complex calls because there are process gaps. This shows that your company isn’t as automated as you may expect, or your processes aren’t clear to your employees. If the process isn’t clear to your employees, needless to say, it definitely won’t be clear to your customers. And why should they trust you if you have no consistent way to solve their problem?
Either way, consider this when you correlate calls with your customer relationship lifecycle or journey and eventually bottom line. You may be able to fix this issue with a clear process, automation, content, or something else or you may also need to do a more substantial repair and offer a new product or service to resolve the issues.
Trends you may see
Some trends you may observe throughout this analysis:
Some customers and their companies contact your company more than others and appear to be more connected. You could analyze how those types of customers interact with your company so you could discover more of them in the market, build relationships with them, and better support that persona throughout the customer relationship lifecycle. These are the types of customers you want to have and keep. Discover how to best do that with this analysis.
You may find a salesperson or support agent maintaining great connections with customers. You may want to find out how they do this, get them to train your staff, and encourage them to serve as an inspiration to their teams to maintain customer connections.
You may notice that some topics get more attention, and you could discover why that happens and which customers inquire about these topics. Discover what they want to learn more about so you can have better conversations with them. You may choose to produce more content to support them. If you see a trend increasing, you may develop a new angle to better support that and better communicate to that more connected type of customer.
There are some questions or calls that require follow-up—and you may discover that there may need to be a better process or communication mechanism to support that.
What you may notice when you map your influence analysis with revenue
When you correlate calls or content results regarding loyalty with revenue, you may notice trends like:
Certain customer interests or topics tend to support a sale or future sales and build a more solid relationship than other topics. Some topics may become a signal for sales to move forward while other topics may indicate an influencer or other sales role.
Customers may have specific interests that align with your company’s solution. They may more clearly see that topic as their problem, which is fantastic. They may also need more information to round out their knowledge about the solution so they can become better champions to promote your company. Discover that and you can take action to create a plan or program to support them.
Some content pieces or conversation topics may better communicate your company’s message than others—so you can discover which do that best and create more pieces like that or support more conversations about that topic. Discover what specifically makes those pieces so memorable and valuable. You’ll notice trends like those content pieces or conversation topics somehow appear in everyone’s journey somehow before they purchase. Such content builds trust because it shows that your company is clearly solving their problem. Identify those pieces and use them to your advantage. Branch out from there to build more conversations. You may notice that the content and conversations from calls coincide – that is such a great indicator of what customers care about most.
Some employees better support relationships in the company than others. They have longer-lasting relationships. Determine which do that and directly help increase your bottom line if you don’t do this already. Sometimes, it’s not just the closers who increase sales; it’s the relationship builders who make a difference and can upsell and cross-sell over time. Those employees may also encourage customers to refer your company to others. This may indicate that.
Some employees are better at follow-up and issue resolution. They help bring change to your organization and keep revenue flow. Identify them and have them help your organization transition for automation.
There are some influencers, prospects, customers, and stakeholders who are most loyal and read, share, and genuinely connect with your company. But you may want to investigate if these people are somehow contributing to your bottom line. If not, how can you engage them to do so? From this analysis of your content and conversations, you may discover that you are targeting the wrong persona in your sales or marketing or you are not providing opportunities for your biggest fans to share your story as much as you should. You may also discover that your fans influence your customers to purchase. It’s definitely worth investigating.
Conversations are key to build relationships between people, like employees and customers, and entities like companies. You can have in-person conversations between people or automated conversations with a bot and still build a relationship based on trust that grows into strong loyalty. Same with automated experiences and in-person experiences. As we discussed, there are elements of these conversation experiences that you can measure to determine how to be more engaged with your customers, prospects, and influencers to build that trust and include them in your company community. As much as possible, get people engaged having conversations. That will help build confidence and trust in not only what you do, but the advice you offer.
Because let’s face it, your solution includes not only a product or a service, but your knowledge. People work with your company because of the advice you offer and because your perspective provides values to your customer’s lives. It’s that value that influences prospects and customers. They understand your points and recognize that you help them again and again, and over time, that influence builds trust and creates loyalty. That’s what makes a customer relationship that shines.
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