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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some trends you may observe throughout this analysis:
When you correlate calls or content results regarding loyalty with revenue, you may notice trends like:
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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