Reaching Consumers Through Social Media Conversations

Marketing and social media should be best friends. They have to be for most products and services to reach a mass market of any significance at a relatively low cost.

I’m a ‘supermarketaholic’ and enjoy visiting the biggest store close-by. Walking the lanes recently was both nostalgic and different. Nostalgic because I know this experience will change in the future as it has from my childhood. Different because I was seeing the products through a different set of eyes on that day. In the past I would be looking out for the new highly advertised product ‘seen on the television or newspaper’. Now, I’m checking out the deals and new products flittering across my mobile as I check my Facebook messages. Yes its different.

Facebook advertising works so well one does not even associate it with advertising. The images we see sometimes can draw us in with very few words. If it’s good, then the comments will get a brief review. Sometimes I will comment if I really like a product or feel interested in finding out more. If I have a bad experience, its shared by writing a negative buzz /response, that’s my act of community service to people I know.

What drives consumer spending now is much more than a hyped-up, interesting product and disposable income. It goes beyond the borders of influence and up the alley of social media marketing and promotion. Its that defining comment which resonates and reminds of a feeling!

How to reach consumers through Social Media conversations?

1. Social media marketing & promotion

From my experience, social media marketing can be described as a mixture of penetrating a marketing image with a social media conversation strategy. The product promotion takes place in the ‘comments’ of a thread. This is then shared, over and over, by consumers who can effectively describe a ‘feeling’ of value in a few words. Indeed it is the trigger from these conversations which cannot be easily monetized as advertising, for commercial gain by a hosting platform. This has helped many brands in introducing new products. In the case of ‘the platform’ like Twitter and Facebook capturing the real commercial value is difficult based on the nature of the promotional asset — online subscribers.

There are very few ads on Facebook which will generate a feeling from me, to look further, in their present format. They give me that feeling from the past, of getting up during the commercial breaks to go for popcorn or a drink!

I’m sure the ads are pretty and relevant and I may miss a deal or two, but hey they do not impact on what I’m going to buy or where I will shop in many instances. So what is wrong with the present ‘validated promotions’ (commercial FB ads), and why don’t they appeal to many consumers like me?

2. Storytelling in social media marketing & promotion

One of my theories on why some ads on social media do not appeal, has to do with ‘verified experience/value added’!

The comment threads can act as a storyteller! Yes. It’s like opening a book and reading a dialogue, complete with human feelings and stimuli. I’ll share a couple examples from my consumer vision;

The Pub — There is a new outdoor mall with a pub I wanted to visit every-time I passed and saw its sign. I was caught by the name and graphics on the sign. As I scrolled one day on Facebook I glimpsed a comment on the pub, shared by a friend of a friend. There was a dissatisfied heading announcing ‘poor service at $200 per meal’. I scrolled back, and read the few lines posted on the consumer experience, and then noted a few comments listed, mainly negative feedback. As I read, I thought — “I won’t be spending $200 to be insulted anytime soon, or ever!” That was instinctive. A few days later on another thread, I read an experience one of my closest friends had at the same pub, and she keeps going there. I’m not convinced I want to give it a try, having noted the time she and the dissatisfied customer visited were very different. She also appears to know the owners, and could be getting preferential treatment. Full story ending indicates, I’m not convinced to go!

Soaps — I’ve been noting a few friends keep sharing this ad about a new line of bath soaps with herbal and natural extracts. I like Dove, but as I read the comments I’m catching a scent and feel of a different experience. Something soft, mild and without a lot of additives, and it smells divine based one comments from people I don’t know. As I hunt the lanes in search of this product, I can only recall the name and the experiences driving me not to give up! Its not on the shelves, and I go to the supervisor to ask if they carry the product line. She says “no”, but asks for a description — I pulled it up on my Facebook screen for her to see (I shared it on my timeline to have easy access)! I can check back with them on my next visit, and they will try to get some in the store! Wow, I will be going there soon.

Marketing and social media can deliver an experience, which is replicated through the buyer/consumer conversations. Good or bad, everything can get validated through the stories we hear via comments. At the end of the day, marketers need to move the customer to exchanging cash for product/service. That is the objective.

Facebook sharing is big and can lead to great success and feedback insights before a brand can be severely damaged. It should be a part of most product marketing strategies. Going beyond the superficial is the new generation marketing challenge for those able to create the authentic /real stories consumers want to read and act on. A marketing savvy person/company shares user experiences effectively. Let’s get those consumers to feel our brands, through conversations!

About the Author

Donna Luisa is a a corporate business veteran, with practical experience in a diverse range of industries — Safety/ HVAC / FMCG /Industrial Equipment /and much more . Sales, Marketing, Business Development & Coaching are combined to deliver over 30 years experience.

Managing Multiple Customer Channels

The way people reach your business’ customer support has changed significantly in the past couple of years, primarily because of the advent of the internet, social media and more importantly, smartphones. Companies are now expected to answer the customer’s grievances over a vast array of channels – these can include emails, messages over social media such as Facebook and Twitter, SMS, contact page on the website and last but not the least, the very traditional but still relevant… phone.

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The customer expects your representatives to be available for any queries around-the-clock, 24/7 and wants prompt replies. Failure to address your customer can result in losing out on important business resulting in loss of revenue. All the different channels of communication should be consistent with each other, for instance handling the customer’s emails should not keep your agents so preoccupied that they miss out on a customer’s phone calls.

Here’s How to Manage Multiple Customer Channels

1. Different Channels – Different Challenges

social-media-lead-generation

Each channel has its own set of requirements, challenges, resources and your customer representative team will have different skills. You can’t expect one agent to perfectly handle all your channels with perfect tenacity. You will have to gauge their strengths and weaknesses and assign them certain roles accordingly. You will need someone with good communication skills in order to handle a large number of phone calls, while fast typing speed would be required of someone who is handling emails and social media.

Related: 
The Art and Science of Customer Engagement

With phone calls and chats, both the customer and the support agents are available at the same time and this can allow you to find common ground very quickly. Channels such as SMS and emails mean that neither the customer nor the support agent are burdened with the pressure of time, and can respond to each at their own leisure (not really true for support agents). While both channels have their strengths and weaknesses, the main purpose of a well oiled customer support team is to ensure that your customer has access to useful information in a short amount of time.

How you can go about designing your customer support team depends entirely on the size of your business and how much volume each channel receives. Depending on the type of business – whether it conducts most of its business online or offline – most customers might try reaching your support team on social media than on phone. This is most often the case with media publication sites with a strong online presence. For insurance or professional service companies, however, phone calls and traditional letters seem to be the order of the day.

2. It isn’t Practical to Blindly follow someone else’s Multichannel Strategy

It really isn’t one size fits all, and the preferable means of communication really depend on the customer. For most small scale businesses in Australia, it really isn’t a good idea to invest in every single type of channel you can get your hands on. It takes time and resources to gather useful, talented individuals and train them to properly handle their roles. It isn’t practical to be available 24/7 across phone, email, SMS and social media. Pick one service that might work best for you. If you’re an online seller, chances are that your customers might not really try to reach you on phone. However, that might not be the case if you’re a physical business with a physical store. For restaurateurs, it is more beneficial to have support agents dealing with phone calls 24/7 or during working hours, rather than having a team address customers online. Your preferred method of communication also depends on which channel the customer themselves choose.

3. Variety is Beneficial for both Employees and Customers

A key point to understand is that your support team also needs a break from the hassle of going through a monotonous job on a daily basis. You need to change their roles every now and then to keep them engaged so that the quality of your support teams doesn’t falter. For instance, one week an agent would be addressing the customer over chat, the next they might engage them over phone. The idea is to ensure they don’t get bored. Boredom can kill productivity and your customers might actually interpret this as lack of concern or empathy for their problem.

The operator over the phone needs to have an encouraging, bubbling voice that exudes enthusiasm which can instill confidence in your customer. So even if their problem might take some time for your team to get back to, they will always be patient because the person on the end of the line was so… enthusiastic.

Studies have shown that deploying omnichannel solutions can boost the employee’s morale by more than 80% while giving your customer more options to reach you.

4. Make Notes about the Customer

By keeping a history of the customer’s purchase history, complaint records and other such data, your support agent will be able to address their problems more efficiently the next time they receive a complaint. This also means you can track the customer’s trends by quantifying key business metrics such as the customer loyalty and retention.

Customer Service Software: The New Foundation of Marketing Strategies

More than 75% of customer-company interactions now occur online. Customers are continuously reaching out to companies over social media. Marketing teams that originally focused just on marketing over social media are now responsible for the customer service interactions. Customers constantly interact with these companies and expect quick meaningful responses.

Here are some great examples of customers contacting companies via social media. Shane from Canada contacted Samsung and explained to company representatives how he is a loyal customer. He told them all the products he owned and then kindly asked if they would send him a new phone for free. In return he offered this picture…

customer-service-samsung-canada

Samsung took this opportunity to show off its excellent customer service and market it to thousands of people. They sent him a new phone, and even customized it by putting his drawing on the back! Social media is a great way to get in contact with your customers, but remember, it’s okay to have some fun once in awhile. Samsung and other companies around the world often showcase their excellent customer service over social media because their marketing channels are so well established.

For a better customer service, use conversational technology to easily manage customer conversations. Request a demo now!

Woveon, an intelligent customer service startup, is paving the way in this online industry. Woveon is an easy-to-use online application providing businesses a centralized location to manage their customer channels, such as social media and phone calls. Using machine learning, social listening, a wide breadth of data, and a clean user interface, Woveon helps prioritize inquiries, identify valuable customers, and suggest personalized content. It levels the playing field for small businesses to compete with larger social media teams and helps enterprises visualize customer journeys. It simplifies online customer relations and makes businesses more efficient in managing the touch points they have with customers.

Learn How Woveon Can Improve Your Marketing Strategy

I recently read on Forrester, “I believe consumer behavior will continue to push eBusinesses to re-evaluate their approach to social media and move to more strategic interactions between marketing, branding, and customer service. Consumer adoption of both direct social support and peer-to-peer support has exploded in the last few years. Further, the majority of consumers expect a reply to their Facebook and Twitter posts.”

Companies should be working their best to get their customers to interact with their brand online. This can include Facebook, Twitter, email, YouTube and Google Ads. Millions of consumers are already online, and it is easy to reach larger audiences. But once you have reached these larger audiences, how do you manage the questions?

Single Platform Integration

Most companies have multiple channels of communication with their customers. Woveon has created a platform that combines all of your customer channels onto a single page. The simplicity allows your marketing and customer service teams to never miss a conversation.

Conversation History

Conversation history is another important feature when dealing with customer service and marketing. It helps to look at past interactions so that if a similar problem arises, you can quickly solve the problem with the steps in front of you. This feature also allows you to know the customer you are dealing with better.

Conversation Prioritization

Woveon’s advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities can prioritize customers. The program looks into the customer’s social media or purchase history and identify more valuable customers. This can include people with large followings on social media. Your customer service team can quickly respond and market how well your brand takes care of its customers.

Customer Service, The Foundation of Online Marketing

Every company’s priority is its customers. So why not focus on your valuable customers and solve the problems that arise? Woveon has the ability to simplify and better market your customer service. With so many different social media platforms, it can be hard for companies; however, integrating all channels onto a single page makes it extremely easy to keep track of all customers conversations. Conversation history allows representatives to look back on past interactions to learn more about your customer before interacting with them. It takes a software platform like Woveon to provide superior customer service. 

CTA marketing strategy template

Convert Demand Generation into Customers – 5 Tips for Busy Marketers

If you’re looking for tips to convert your demand generation campaigns into paying customers, you came to the right place. All businesses must use different marketing and demand generation strategies to help build leads online, but generating leads should not be the only goal. If you’re unable to convert your leads into customers, then you are losing out and will not be able to complete sales. The business therefore, relies on marketers to come up with effective demand generation strategies that provide them with high quality leads. The leads a business acquires are only valuable if they turn into sales for the brand. That is why it is imperative that the business pays importance to the marketing aspect, and gets the sales process properly done. This will help them accomplish greater sales after generating valuable leads.

5 Demand Lead Generation Tips

1. Use Data to Understand Customers

It is important that you take advantage of data to understand the entire process of converting online leads and getting customers for your brand. This is why so many businesses spend on customer management, customer channel and data collection tools, because it allows them to easily funnel all the customers from multiple campaigns and convert leads into sales. By having accurate data available you can easily focus your attention on reaching out to people with the highest chances of becoming long-term customers of the business.

See also: Top Successful Lead Generation Strategies

This is where most marketing and sales campaigns fail, because they don’t give the data great importance to separating customer channels and fail to assess how it will help them out. Don’t fall into the same trap, and make channel management and data a crucial part of all sales meetings, so that everyone understands and can interpret what is converting, where the customers are coming from and how long it is taking to onboard them.

2. Act Fast to Convert Leads

Once you have attracted the customers to your campaign, you need to move fast, because the longer you wait, the greater the chances that you will lose out – managing the customer response times. Faster response times will generate more demand to your campaign. There is no point in delaying a good lead, because if you don’t reach out to them in time, someone else from your industry will. That is why it is important that any decision you take must be fast, so that you can easily convert leads.

Reaching out to leads quickly also convinces customers that they are working with a business that is reliable and serious about working with them. This builds customer relationships and greatly increases the chances of the leads converting into sales.

3. Make Sure to Follow-up

Identify and open up multiple channels for leads to come back and reach out. Also find out where they are talking to manage the conversations effectively. When you’re reaching out to a new lead, and don’t get a good response, you shouldn’t give up on them. This is critical if you want to learn advanced demand generation strategies. Here’s a 3 step formula for writing brilliant email marketing subject lines that gets you through the door. 

Make sure that you reach out to them again, by sending them an email or calling them some other time so that you get the chance to talk with them. This will help increase your chances of communicating with as many high-quality leads as possible and help you convert the maximum number of customers for your business. Demand generation relies on being able to reach out to customers on what ever platform the customer is familiar with. 

4. Convert Leads by Qualifying Them

Another great demand generation strategy is by qualifying your leads separately, and setting them apart in different categories. This will allow you to have a detailed breakdown of leads from different communication channels that you can work with and the ones that you need to let go. Mark them as high quality leads and leads that you can move past, because this is how you will advance.

This helps you save time and ensure that you only work on sales-quality leads and have the right conversations with the right customers. It drastically improves your demand generation chances, and ensures that you can build strong customer relationships. Qualifying leads is a strong tactic, and one that will allow you to properly funnel leads to convert them into sales. There is also a reduced risk of losing out on valuable clients, because you already have the information needed to convert them into sales.

5. Have a Proper Sales Team

There will be no point in adopting any demand generation strategy if you don’t have a structured sales team. You need to ensure that your sales team not only manages relationships with existing clients, but is also able to convert new leads. This will help make things easier for you, because you will now be able to balance out the requirements and target customers effectively.

You should divide your sales teams so that one is focused on dealing with existing clients, while the other team handles the conversion of new leads. Having this kind of structure in your sales team will ensure that you don’t lose out on customers, and bring in new business as well. This can be achieved through a multi-channel conversation framework. 

Conclusion

If you plan your work properly, and structure your sales team, while using data carefully, then you will be able to greatly improve your chances of converting online leads from multiple channels. Remember that you need to stay in touch on various social, sms, phone, emails and chat platforms with your customers, and follow up with the right conversations, resulting in a successful sales funnel. 

Navigating Your Way Past The “Trough Of Disillusionment” For Artificial Intelligence In Customer Experience

Guest blog by Steve Nuttall

The hype around Artificial Intelligence technologies is at its peak. According to the 2017 Gartner Hype Cycle, emerging technologies such as deep learning, machine learning and virtual assistants are at the “peak of inflated expectation”. Cognitive expert advisors have passed this peak and are now descending towards the “trough of disillusionment”. This occurs when interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver.

emerging technology hype cycle gartner 2017

The benefits of AI for customer experience management are potentially game changing. AI has the capability to analyse vast amounts of data in real time from various sources, including human behaviours and emotions. Expectations are high because this capability can then be used to create seamless and personalised customer experiences that are optimised to the device and channel of choice.

Pragmatists and battle hardened cynics will recall that when automation was first introduced into customer service channels, the results were often spectacularly underwhelming. So, is the application of AI to customer experiences destined to fall into the trough of disillusionment before climbing the slope of enlightenment? Or is there a path to follow to avoid the pitfalls of unmet expectations?

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Intelligently using Artificial Intelligence for Customer Experience

In order to find out whether the application of AI to your business’ customer experience will take a downturn, it is necessary to first ask yourself: What is driving your organisation’s AI strategy? Is it because:

  • AI is all the rage in your industry and your organisation is fearful of being left behind?
  • If you take the lead in implementing AI, it will make you look smarter/cooler than your colleagues?
  • It sounds like a cool and fun toy to experiment with?
  • Your organisation needs to catch up with your competitors who have been early adopters of AI?
  • AI is a great opportunity to reduce the cost to serve our customers?

If the answer to any of the above is Yes, then the trough of disillusionment beckons.

Alternatively, if you are deploying or considering AI because…

AI can enable your people and optimise your processes to operate more intelligently and efficiently, in order to provide individualised and predictive experiences for your customers at scale

…..then a brighter future awaits.

For these technologies to have any chance of success you should have a clear sense of purpose of how to you intend to deploy AI to drive CX in your business. Here are three ways you can use AI in a purposeful way to create meaningful customer experiences.

1. Use AI to Enhance your Knowledge of the Customer

Customer Connection Web Diagram

An example would be using data analytics to anticipate the needs of individual customers at each moment of truth and key stage of their journey. Some specific examples oh how businesses are using AI to enhance customer knowledge:

2. Use AI to create stronger emotional connections with your customers

Using AI to recognise a customer’s emotional state helps agents better respond to the customer during an interaction, thereby creating stronger emotional connections.

3. Use AI to empower your service agents

artificial-intelligence-robot

Not only can AI empower agents with emotional intelligence to reply appropriately to customers, it can be used as a tool to connect service agents with the right information in the organisation’s knowledge base in real time. Examples of why this can be powerful to a business: 

A recent study Fifth Quadrant CX undertook for Oracle showed that CX leaders acknowledge the potential of AI and are more advanced in trialling and implementing these emerging technologies to enable better customer experiences. AI is being used to combine data from multiple sources to create individual profiles for each customer, enabling agents to take immediate action on what customers want. Consequently, CX Leaders are outperforming their counterparts by creating emotional connections with their customers through more predictive and personalised customer experiences.

As a result, nearly two thirds of CX leaders say their organisation’s revenue growth outperforms their industry counterparts, compared with only a quarter of CX laggards. The proof is therefore clearly in the pudding: when applied in a purposeful and meaningful way, AI technology can enable organisations to increase agility and overcome competitive threats and leverage this advantage to drive acquisition.

 

Steve Nuttal fifth quadrant customer experience head of researchWritten by Dr Steve Nuttall – Head Of CX Research, Fifth QuadrantSteve has worked in various leadership roles as a market research insights professional for over twenty years in Europe, Asia and Australia. He leads Fifth Quadrant’s program of CX strategy research and is an international speaker and presenter on best practice customer experience. Steve assists organisations to deliver their customer-centric strategies and business performance goals including designing and implementing programs to help optimise the customer experience.

One Company – Multi Customer Channels

When someone mentions a retail store, you’ll most probably imagine a building, amidst a crowd of parked cars. A clear picture of aisles and aisles of different products will cross your mind. And then you would also imagine some of the other shoppers you’re likely to meet there. This might ring true for many people but even if you enjoy experiencing the oddity of everyday life, who has the time for such nonsense? After a busy day at work, the last thing you’d want to do is stand in a queue at the retail store, just to buy a 1L of milk. Retail stores identified the ‘need for speed’ and thus, the multi-channel strategies were formed.

Related: How to Turn Your Company into a Multi-Channel Success

Woolworths – The Fresh Food People

customer-channels-woolworths

Woolworths is one such retail store in Australia, who has adopted multi-channel strategies to serve their customers better. They opened their first store in Sydney, in 1924 and soon afterwards, gained the popularity that have made them one of the leading retail stores in Australia. By revenue, they come on the 2nd place, after Wesfarmers.With over 3000 stores across Australia and New Zealand, the team at Woolworths soon realised that the traditional brick-and-mortar store strategy wouldn’t be able to satisfy their customer needs and so in 2011, they took the initiative to become the country’s leading multi-channel retailer. They decided to achieve their goal through a holistic and integrated strategy so as to capitalise on the country’s growing demand for online shopping. Fast forward to 2017 and the business is blooming for the retailer. For their third quarter in 2017, Woolworths revealed that their online sales have increased by 20%. According to a study analysed by Australian Consumer, Retail, and Services (ACRS) Research Unit, just four advertising channels (websites, personalised direct mail, TV ads and catalogues and flyers) are responsible for influencing 92% of a consumer’s purchase decision.

Online Delivery

woolworths-online-delivery

The ease of online shopping at Woolworths is certainly unmatched by many other retailers operating in the same industry. With reward offers and personalized shopping experience, customers can easily get their shopping delivered to their home or pick it up from the store, all ready for them.
The ‘Track My Order’ option helps customers know when to expect the delivery and even schedule the time of their delivery.

Shopping App

woolworths-app

Want to save even more time? The Woolworths app is available on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store. From personalised shopping lists to a store locator, the app offers the ultimate ease for its customers.

Dark Stores

When Woolworths opened its first ‘dark store’ in 2014, it was to reduce the time it took to fulfill online orders faster. The ‘dark store’ looked exactly like the other Woolworths stores, except that it was bigger in size. The aisles were maintained, the products were stocked neatly but it was closed to the general public.
You might wonder why a store wouldn’t allow customers in. That’s because the store isn’t for customers!

In this fast paced world, not many people have the time to waste on grocery shopping. A better alternative is online shopping but there were some issues to ordering online too. Most of the times, deliveries would take too long and Woolworths realised the need for faster deliveries. Hence, the ‘dark store’ was set up. It was Woolworths first dedicated online store and personal shoppers were amazed with the results.

With conventional stores, an ever present flow of customers makes it difficult for the staff to pick up online orders. The only time online orders can be picked is either early morning or at night, when the customer flow is at its lowest. Now, the dark store has solved this problem.

With no slow-moving customers blocking the aisles, the team at Woolworths dark store was able to fulfill orders quickly and at any time of the day. At peak hours, there can be as many as 80 pickers on the floor, at the same time.

Conclusion

Supermarkets are just one niche that Woolworths deal in. With a number of liquor stores, liquor supermarkets, petrol stations and discount department store chains, Woolworths Limited deals in numerous channels.

In order to enhance their digital business capabilities, Woolworths invested in contact center technology-as-a-service and in doing so, experienced a 40% reduction in touch points for email. Woolworths have expanded due to their award winning multi-channel initiatives and with their attention on innovation for increased customer experience, they are changing the face of Australian retail.

Making Returns on the Conversational Economy

Article by Adam Rawot, CEO Woveon

I remember reading an article almost ten years ago talking about how teens were sending over 40 texts a day on average. The tone of the article was incredulous, but the statistic pales in comparison to how we exist online now. Speaking personally, it’s not implausible I send off 40 messages before 10 AM in my morning inbox check in. Sarah Guo, a partner of Greylock, expressed it succinctly when she took to Medium: “More than a decade ago, academics such as Thurlow described a “communication imperative”—human beings are driven to maximize their communication volume and satisfaction. More recently, researchers have described it as compulsion.”

While constant connectedness is old news, technology has finally achieved a point it can leverage this behavior. As with all big shifts, there will be survivors and those who don’t adapt fast enough. Companies will need to change to a conversational mode of thought to maintain the experiences users expect and deliver the individuality anticipated.

People Always Talk

multichannel communication

Nearly 25 years ago, Harvard Business Review wrote “today if you’re not on the phone or talking with colleagues and customers, chances are you’ll hear, “Start talking and get to work!” In the new economy, conversations are the most important form of work.” Conversations are how we track knowledge flows. Conversation flows are how people create value, share information, and illustrate how companies operate.

A cited example is McKinsey. McKinsey prides itself heavily on the intelligence of its members, and by an extension the true value of McKinsey over other firms is its extensive knowledge base. That knowledge is curated and developed through internal conversation and shared through internal conversation. In short, McKinsey is conversation.  

We are entering a new age for product development – one dictated by the conversational economy. Broadly, the conversational economy is the catchall phrase for companies, products, and ideas built on, alongside, or relying heavily on a conversational interface. More simply, they are services that leverage conversation.

This definition is board, and intentionally so. While some apps like iMessage, Snapchat and email obviously fit into this definition, conversation works as a backbone in services like Facebook, customer service complaints, and online advertising as well. Finding a common backbone helps derive a working model for these services.

Between the myriad of mobile apps used every day, access to the internet, and the seemingly innate human need to feel connected, conversation based platforms are dominating our lives. We have effectively destroyed the asynchronous quality of day to day life. We persist online, and, consequently, our conversations with one another never really begin or end. This data stream is a jackpot for product creation.

Smarter Everyday

Artificial intelligence, in the eyes of the public, has snuck past an important threshold. Presentations by titans like Facebook and Google have assured that we are moving away from the robotic idea of natural language processing in a rigid sense to natural language understanding. In other words, instead of responding to a keyword or a phrase, computers are beginning to be able to understand sentence, paragraphs, and intent.

There are a variety of causes for this – improvement of machine learning and deep learning, Moore’s Law, and rate of mobile and app data collection, to name a few. Algorithms and software are taking on their own intelligence. Just the idea that failed outcomes can make systems better is an astounding twist compared to five years prior.

Additionally, we’re in the middle of the boom of ambient computing, the idea that our environments and surroundings are responsive. We don’t have to open our phone or flip open a laptop to be connected. On the way to work I may pass a few smart cameras, a plethora of listening iPhones and Galaxy phones, an Alexa, Chromecasts, and more. Despite this, I would characterize myself as one of the less connected people in my demographic. At every step of my day my voice can be heard, position tracked, and activity monitored. Being connected no longer has much to do with if our phone is on our person or if we’re behind a keyboard.

Although passive collection has subtly pushed past our natural aversion to share information with technologies we don’t understand and people we don’t know, this one-sided trade has come with the expectation of usability. When software doesn’t work or apps crash, we no longer blame ourselves, we blame companies. We are inundated with choices, but that means that we have little tolerance of poor experiences. Users are more empowered than ever in that they don’t have to subject themselves to experiences they don’t want or content they’d rather avoid. We so demand these freedoms that events like net neutrality rapidly cause public outcry and social faux pas by companies like EA tank sales.

Computing, connectedness, and data almost completely undermine how product managers need to think about designing products. The need to leverage conversation to deliver value has emerged as one of the most critical company problems. IDEO acquiring a data analytics company, giants like Apple acqui-hiring boutique companies with human-centric software, and Salesforce pushing Einstein all serve as mine canaries that even the most established companies are racing and struggling to adapt.

Buying In and Cashing Out

As George Box famously cited – all models are wrong, but some are useful. Where is the utility of viewing products as ongoing conversations?

A helpful place to start is in how companies have historically fended off competition. These ‘moats’ include things like brand loyalty, unique data sources, and intellectual property. However, as technologies like AI are more readily available via open source projects, cloud hosting and computing are only a few clicks away, and systems of engagement continually emerge, the traditional ideas of tech defensibility are evaporating. In a Greylock article on Medium, they wrote “In all of these markets, the battle is moving from the old moats, the sources of the data, to the new moats, what you do with the data.”

In another words, companies are now finding defensibility through the experiences they create. To create these experiences for customers in the conversational era, companies will have to harness existing behavior, respond personally, and work faster.

Harnessing existing behavior is an exercise in invisibility. The real frontier for conversational companies to generate solutions for problems before the consumer is even aware. For example, Facebook realized that people asked for recommendations on their newsfeeds. Instead of creating a new service, they had posts automatically update with reviews and locations. They created a new card that changed automatically depending on what a user wrote. As expressed by a product designer at Facebook: “We didn’t try to invent a completely new behavior; rather, we found an existing one and made it way better.”

To cite an example within my own career, food industry companies often lose hours if not days within food recall investigations. Tracking a faulty shipment through several distributors can be tricky. We worked to create a product that reads the complaint before the owner may even be aware it exists and start and investigation. By the time an owner is even aware there is a problem, a report is ready. By approaching complaints, invoices, and shipments and messages between companies, value can be created seamlessly in a second layer.

As I’ve written about before, personalization is an increasingly critical element of producing customer lifetime value. Harvard Business Review started to notice this trend in their research on customer service: “Even as artificial intelligence becomes embedded in everyday interactions; human conversation remains the primary way people make complex purchases or emotional decisions.” The fatal error in a lot of software products is focusing on company efficiency over consumer experience. While these changes may boost bottom line in the short term, they encourage competitor entry and consumer drop off.

Conversational apps have an obvious outlet for personalization, and the power behind them allow easy switching between automation and human elements. More simply: “these intelligent agents will facilitate one-on-one conversations between consumers and sales or customer service representatives rather than simply replacing human interaction.” Imagine a case where someone sits on a delayed flight and sends out an angry tweet. A conversational built system could find the message, tag it, and route it to an agent. While the agent delivers a personal response with an update, the system has already sent an alleviating reward of extra miles to the customer. The captain may be alerted of sentiment on the plane and deliver an announcement. While an autoresponder may have been cheaper, the customer will now remember the exceptional level of immediate service and is more likely to return. As information and computing become free, the real commodity becomes the personality of the person on the other end of the line.

In the shorter term, there’s a simpler way to think about AI adoption – people don’t trust what they don’t understand. In the classic product management advice, it’s best to start with a problem and move to solution. Leveraging conversation is a means to building a better product, but that doesn’t change what the bottom lines should be. In other words, “Bots do not need to be human to be human centered.”

Outside of the shift in new product priorities, another major implication is how we use the technologies we use currently. In a blog post, Dan Rover (sp?) declared that bot won’t replace apps, but inboxes were the new home screen. Our email, text messages, and more were queues demanding our intention and driving our usage.

Companies leveraging platforms like WeChat have been able to effectively create micro services and apps for things like ordering that have integrated seamlessly with how we act now. Bot companies that are able to daisy-chain onto conversations to do scheduling and commuter planning have shone in venture capital funding. It’s not inconceivable the next unicorn will have nothing to do with creating a new platform but layering effortlessly onto the ways we talk with those platforms now.

Speak Now

We talk online all the time, but computing has finally let us create value from that. Companies need to invest in ways to leverage these conversations to deliver seamless and personal content. This means focusing on personnel and focusing on alleviating frictions than automation. Companies that don’t value the communication imperative and connectedness of customers will soon find themselves lagging in experience, and, later, sales.

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A prime example of this is Amazon Web Services’ fast climb to dominance. Legacy systems like Oracle required costly deployments and developers, and setting up cloud instances on AWS is only a few clicks away. IaaS records have shown Amazon’s sheer dominance. Oracle, trying to defend by housing data and curating an elite brand, couldn’t compete with Amazon’s engagement accessibility.

Perhaps the most obvious implication of smart conversational apps is efficiency. However, despite all the news and hype around an artificial intelligence singularity, businesses – and their customers – still revolve around the interactions person to person. This means that products needs to be resolved around facilitating conversation, collecting information, and iterating form that information. The AI boom has made it easier than ever to facilitate personal conversations no matter where customers are online.

How to Turn Your Company into a Multi-Channel Success

Multi-channel is the future. Recently, a survey involving a thousand consumers was conducted to study into consumer shopping habits. Of the thousand surveyed consumers, 80% preferred having a choice of shopping in store, by telephone or online. There was a time when all the power in a customer-seller relationship was with local shops. A customer would drive for hours to get a chance to buy something but often, he/she would end up being turned away because the shop had already sold out. Since they got results without making any extra effort, multi-channel marketing or sales did not make sense to the sellers at the time.

Today, the entire relationship has been turned upside down. Now, all the power is with the customer and sellers have to constantly adopt new technology just so that a customer considers them when buying. Today, businesses need to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy something from them. In such times, a good way to increase your chances of netting a sale is appearing on different channels familiar to potential customers. In short, you need to whole-heartedly embrace multi-channel sales and marketing.An opportunity to engage with consumers across a variety of channels, multi-channel marketing allows you to maintain a consistent message and brand. On the other hand, multi-channel selling can help you to profitably sell to more people. With a multi-channel strategy, you can reach the right customers, at the right time, using the right channels and the right messages. This allows you to focus towards marketing efforts, improve customer engagement and achieve better Return On Investment.

See also: Learn how to manage multiple channels with Woveon

To collect customer contact information, companies today use at least three channels. Considering this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more businesses today are focusing most on their efforts on multiple channel initiatives. Moreover, businesses are doing everything they possible can to make these initiatives successful. So, what are the efforts you need to make your multiple-channel initiatives successful? Following is how to turn your company into a multi-channel success.

Successfully Managing Multiple Channels within Your Business

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Plan Carefully

The most important aspect of your multiple channel strategy is planning. Even if your idea is great, it can turn out to be disastrous if you execute it without much thought. Instead of helping you grow, this will end up costing you. For this reason, you must plan carefully what channels you’ll sell on, what systems you will use and how you will integrate those systems together.

Turn Multiple Channels into A Single View

Using a carefully planned strategy, you can accurately capture and link multiple engagement points into a single identity. When this happens, you will be able to get a single customer view into your multiple-channel activity. With this single customer view, you will know exactly when a customer wants you to reach out to him/her. This in turn will help your business to generate a positive response.

Eliminate the Need for Manual Data Entry

A multi-channel strategy creates repetition of finding customer information, sharing information and customer profiles across different systems and importantly, repeating the same conversation again so the customer service rep can understand the situation. The information stored in these systems includes information related to customers, inventory, items etc. Sharing this information across your systems is mandatory. Whether a customer buys in-store or online, you would want to track his/her order history.

If an item is purchased from your webstore, then the decrease in inventory should reflect in your amazon account and vice versa. Moreover, you must share product information from your point of sale (POS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) to your online sales channels. Often, businesses using a multiple channel strategy for the first time rely on manual data entry to transfer data from one system to another. Unfortunately, the time and cost incurred in this process is something the business underestimates. It may take hours to manually enter data such as entering online orders into your ERP or POS. Moreover, manual data entry makes you prone to typing mistakes that result in out of stock, lost orders and worst of all, ticked off customers.

For the reasons mentioned-above, you need to eliminate manual data entry when using a multi-channel strategy. Today, there are numerous software-based solutions that automate data processing, speed up processing of orders and eliminate those costly human-errors.

Know Who You’re Selling To

As important as knowing where to pitch, knowing who to pitch to can increase your chances of making a sale. You need to create various ‘buyer personas’ i.e. the customers you’re likely to run into when selling on various channels. These personas represent the different customer groups interested in your product. By customizing your message appropriately to those groups, you can increase chances of making a sale. Ultimately, this will help you to turn your company into a multi-channel success.

AI Technology and Customer Service

Recently I wrote an article for LinkedIn titled “Can we maintain the human touch with customer service?” I couldn’t help think about how fast we are moving with Artificial Intelligence that the question still remains, I am not worried about 5 years from now or what new customer interactions will be digital, but how will businesses maintain the reality check with their customers? Surely digital chat bots and automated ticketing systems will ask random customers surveys about what they thought about their service response and the level of happiness to refer another customer. To implement is very easy but to keep the human connection with your customers will be the challenge.

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Deliver Smarter Customer Service Solutions

At Woveon, we watch and analyse through thousands of conversations all uniquely handled by diligent customer service agents who, assisted with technology, work tirelessly around the clock to acknowledge, understand, listen to and resolve the incoming customer conversation. Clearly customer service has the human touch here! Even with today’s AI technology surpassing standards in reliability, accuracy and now business intelligence the human touch in AI must not be far away? This is an important consideration looking at the technology landscape today, companies are working on delivering smarter customer service solutions, from chat bots that understand your sentiment and can adapt to your tone and writing style to automated enquiry systems that can help recommend products while you shop online. Yet still, customer service and particularly conversation management is still a human “touch”, something that is defined intrinsically in the term “customer experience”.

See also: Customer Service: Its Importance and Value

Create an Outstanding Customer Service Experience

Let’s take the example of creating an outstanding customer service experience. Data tells us that outstanding customer service increases brand loyalty. Examples include begin a conversation with a podcast, send personal messages, create a lifestyle and get back to your customers. We’re not talking about getting back to your customers via a bot or automated reply email, but rather using an actual person who understands your customers and can understand the fine details and semantics of human feelings. Remember, customer service is all about listening to your customers and putting yourself in their shoes. Great customer service professionals can quickly adapt and understand the customer’s frustrations and calm their emotions. Being present and responding quickly in human is very different to doing this via a scripted automated response. However, in the enterprise world, a study by Oracle put it at 8 out of every 10 businesses who are already implementing or about to implement AI as a customer service solution by 2020. Nearly 40% of all enterprises are already using some form of AI technology with Forrester predicting a 300% increase in AI investments, the disruptive power of AI will impact every part of the business from customer service to sales and support. So are businesses going ahead at this the wrong way?

Having interviewed several CTOs and CMOs working with the technology, there is no rushing into the game looking for the holy grail. For most, the best step moving forward is in assistive and adaptive technology or to assist with data collection and analysis. AI technology is encapsulating more and more human qualities as technology advances. Bots are often deployed to collect data based off human input and use it to optimise the customer’s experience. This is particularly applicable to personalisation. Human teams then need to help filter, sift through and make sense of all the personalisations so the system can make better judgements in the future. Artificial intelligence predicts and prioritises the user’s interests according to their searches and similar inputs given by other users. This, when compared to the pros of human service, has similar benefits to empathy and experience. For example the human touch can continue on more serious, complicated customer challenges whereas standard, mundane everyday enquiries can be handled by AI bots. An example is AI assistance to lessen waiting periods for customer inquiries. KLM, the flag carrier airline of the Netherlands, used DigitalGenius’ AI system to answer customer’s questions faster. The AI units interpreted the questions and answered them with a quick edit of the preformed answer to relate directly to the language used by the customer. It was also able to adapt to the platform for the inquiries, pumping out longer responses to emails but limiting Twitter responses to 140 characters. Digital customer service seems to be directed towards matching human interaction but with the removal of prominent flaws.

So can we maintain the human touch in customer service? Having been a product manager and worked in technology since the first dot com (no I am not that old, I was just young when I first got into technology), we can expect to see customer service significantly enhanced with AI bringing the human touch to a new level. The amount of data that AI and ML will help sift through to help “advise” and “suggest” to a customer service team will break new boundaries. Customer service teams can then be deployed to work on escalated or prioritised items that result in a big sale or help close the deal. Customer service, intuitively is tied closely with the human touch, a computer cannot learn years of successful customer interactions without first being taught and guided by humans. This is a realistic fact.