A Guide to Excellent Conversation Management

A must-read guide for enterprises with billions of conversations and millions of customers.

call center conversational business intelligence software woveon

Enterprises are much more overwhelmed with conversations than ever before. Not only do they have to actively respond to customers over a myriad of channels like email, phone, social and livechat, they’re expected to give personal, relevant and fast responses.

To tackle this problem, many organizations are looking at new technology to help them meet customer expectations. Some of the most notable are AI chatbots, self-service knowledge bases and good old Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems.

The problem? These all aim to lessen the time customers spend with agents.

While people do like self service for speed and convenience, majority still want to be able to talk to a person in times of need, or at important turning points in their life. Curiously, while we’re moving more towards a more digital and self-service world, most consumers still want the ‘human touch’ in their service communications.

human touch woveon conversational business intelligence

The challenge is to provide highly personalized and relevant offerings to meet both customer and business goals, all the while delivering the experience through the customer’s natural mediums of interaction. Counterintuitively, the likeliest solution to bring the human element back into customer conversations is though technology and big data.

So, what should you look for in a technology that will give you both customer satisfaction and maximize revenue?

Multichannel Conversations

 multichannel conversations business intelligence software woveon

At the basics, an organization’s communication channels should be in one view. That means a business should be able to see and reply to customers by email, phone, livechat, social media, forums and wherever they could be talking to you, or about you, on one platform.

Why? Convenience and transparency.

Convenient Conversations

A single platform for the entire range of conversation channels is much more efficient for customer-facing agents. Often, they have to switch between multiple channels to check for new customer interactions, and unfortunately, miss some communications here and there. With one view for conversations, they save on time, and reduces the chance they will miss communications from less monitored channels.

The convenience isn’t just for agents. Customers want to interact with brands through their medium of choice. 51% of U.S. consumers are loyal to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication. Younger consumers especially, want to interact with large organizations via instant messaging channels where they can use natural language. Having all channels on one platform allows agents to have visibility across all channels, instead of doing well on a few and lagging on others.

Transparent Conversations

In so many organizations, a different team handles a different channel. They are responsible for that channel, and that channel only. But the customer is dynamic. They might reach out on one channel, and upon finding that it isn’t fast enough or substantial enough to resolve their problems, they will switch channels.

The ‘different team, different channel’ approach doesn’t account for the customer’s flexibility, resulting in multiple replies or inconsistent replies from two different people, both creating bad customer experiences. With multiple channels on one view, conversations are transparent. Conversations from the same customer are stitched together, and the same person can handle issues without making the customer’s journey difficult.

Holistic Customer View

single customer view conversational trasactional behavioral intelligence woveon

In an enterprise with multiple departments, systems and channels, it’s necessary to have a collective view of the customer.

A single customer view (or a 360 degree view) is a complete profile of a customer, created from aggregated data points within an organization’s systems and channels. It collates data from multichannel communications and customer data platforms (like CRMs, analytics, marketing and legacy systems).

Customers often complain about the lack of continuity in their conversations and having to repeat themselves. Problems like this arise because agents have no visibility on what customers have said on a separate channel, or what customer information exists on a separate system. As such, interactions are treated as a completely new “ticket”, and in the worst cases, existing customers are seen as a new customer.

With a single customer view, an agent can see a given customer’s conversational, transactional and behavioral data in one place. This not only improves time-to-answer by 20% – 80%, it also ensures customer information flow is consistent and continuous, reducing awkward moments like the ones above.

The use of a single customer view can even go beyond customer care activities. Integrated systems mean that there could be a seamless blend of sales, marketing and service activities through conversation.

Having this feature marks the start of being able to use critical sources of data collectively. The key however, lies in how the customer intelligence is used. The following presents ways customer intelligence can be used to take control of conversations in providing exceptional customer experience and maximize revenue.

AI-assisted agents

Use of artificial intelligence (AI) in enterprises is not new. For decades they have been used to automate heavily manual processes to increase efficiency, accuracy and decrease costs. What is new, is the use of AI beyond processes to interactions.

Use of AI opens up the potential to deliver personalized interactions and hyper-relevant offerings that are scalable.

artificial intelligence customer conversations business intelligence woveon

Whether it’s the AI itself doing the talking, or an algorithm providing assistance to a human representative, online, or face-to-face, AI holds incredible potential to re-establish the human-to-human connection in an increasingly digital world. Check out some examples below.

Deliver relevant content and information with AI

Many organizations have invested heavily into user experience, self-service and knowledge management tools. Yet, it is still difficult and time-consuming for customers to find the right information when they need it.

Companies like Zendesk have developed AI-powered virtual assistants that help customers self-serve. By processing natural language, the technology suggests articles in the knowledge base to help them resolve their problems on their own. Research has found that most people are open to using self-serve AI technology like this, and see it as faster and more convenient.

Other organizations like Woveon have built AI-powered response assistants to help agents have more productive conversations in real-time. As agents talk with customers, the response assistance helps guide conversations so better results can be achieved for both the customer and the business. It would suggest opportunities like ‘other customers like her also bought’, or ‘he mentioned credit cards, link to these articles from our blog to help him decide’.

Speed up resolution times

call center conversational business intelligence software woveon

On average, a customer care specialist spends 20% of their time looking for information and context to resolve a customer’s problem. That’s one whole day in a work week!

AI can help organize information so that it’s easily digestible and relevant to a customer’s enquiry. Woveon’s Intelligent Response framework for example, will change the information it displays to assist agents based on the flow of conversation. If a customer talks about their personal loan, their loan details pop up. If the conversation shifts to their lost credit card, their shipping details will surface and agents are prompted to cancel the lost card.

Instead of wasting time looking for information, AI assistance leave agents more time to build a relationship and take up on untapped customer opportunities. Customers also love a quick and productive interaction. 69% attributed their good customer service experience to quick resolution of their problem.

Reduce repetitive admin tasks to open doors for higher value interactions

after call work repetitive call center agent woveon

Administrative tasks like After-call work (ACW) have been a constant headache for employees in customer-facing roles. Though they are necessary, it’s tedious, repetitive and and takes up too much time. Technology can help to reduce time spent on these menial tasks, leaving agents more time to build customer relationships and, in the process, make their jobs more productive and meaningful.

For example, Avaya has a natural language summarization tool to help agents process customer information post-call. Talkdesk automates call routing, where the customer is automatically paired with an agent with the best ability to solve their problem. Woveon can prioritize conversations real-time, based on customer importance, value, urgency, or a mixture of all factors.

Freeing up employee time away from menial tasks allow them to participate in higher-value activities.

Intelligent Analytics

customer business intelligence conversational analytics woveon

There’s no doubt that data analytics is incredibly beneficial for customer conversations. The trick is knowing what data to use, how, and when.

What data is being used matters because not all data is created equal. For example, rather than looking at metrics at a point in time (customer rated the agent 4 out of 5 for resolution), it’s much more important to look at the larger picture (that it took 3 calls and an hour on hold to get there).

How data is used is arguably more critical to conversational success. The key lies in knowing what datapoints to tie together, and what analysis to draw from it. A mesh of marketing and service data can show how a recent marketing campaign has affected conversation volume and NPS. A cluster analysis of related keywords in customer conversations can lead to discovery of a huge logistics flaw.

When to use what data is of particular importance to customer-facing agents. 74% of Millennial banking customers for example, want their financial institutions to send them information about services exactly when they need to see it. This could be information about personal loans when they’re starting to look for a house, or travel insurance before they intend to travel.

Companies these days have a wealth of data on their customers. In theory, organizations should have the ability to know who they are, what they need and what makes them defect to another company. However, lack of visibility on the holistic customer journey and customer intelligence tools stunt their ability to provide such excellence.

The following section will delve into three types of analytics particularly useful for managing customer conversations — predictive, clustering and revenue-generating.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics provide foresight into potential customer problems and opportunities. Extracted from existing historical conversational, transactional and behavioral data, it can help agents better prepare for customer outcomes and trends.

A pretty common example is prediction of when influxes of customer conversations come in. For eCommerce businesses, holiday seasons generally see a spike in customer conversations and steadily reduces till the next holiday season. In a more complex scenario, predictive analytics can find that customers with a particular occupation, a certain concern and at a similar stage in their lives is actually a niche the organization hasn’t capitalized on.

Cluster Analysis

Now this one isn’t as common in a conversational technology, but is definitely worth mentioning. Cluster analysis involves conversations and customer information to be tagged, then for similar or related tags to be clustered together to draw insights.

Cluster analysis can draw out how topics in conversations can be relevant, or how particular customer segments can be feel about a product. This customer intelligence can then feed into other parts of the business. It could be used to help create a new automated customer workflow for upsells, or contribute to a new marketing campaign for a newly discovered customer segment.

Revenue-generating analytics

As repetitive and menial conversations are moving towards being solved by self-service solutions, agents must also move from a traditional support role to a hybrid service-to-sales model. This category of analysis is as the name suggests, analysis that serves to generate revenue for the business within conversations.

For example, Woveon’s Intelligent Response Framework suggests ways customer specialist representatives in banks can sell more products to their customers. A customer who fits the profile of ‘customers who typically get a black American express card’ will prompt a suggestion for the agent to talk the customer into an upgrade from their current card. A customer who is at a stage in their life where ‘customers like him are looking at buying a property’ will prompt a suggestion to link some home loan webpages, or a free session with a  financial planner.

Marketo research shows that only 10% of B2B companies’ revenue comes from initial sales. 90% of the revenue comes from following sales.

In the best possible scenario, this analysis is also delivered at the right time for an agent to capitalize on the opportunity, like in an intelligent response framework.

Be a data geek, not creep

data usage personalization privacy woveon business intelligence

Of course, it’s important to know that use of data should be “cool”, not “creepy”. There’s a fine line between the two that should never be crossed. Also, everyone’s fine line is drawn differently, so what one customer may think is cool, can be perceived as creepy by someone else.

Enterprises should have enough data about their customers to track and understand individual preferences, and see how customers respond to different use of their information at different points in the customer journey. Conversational intelligence and analysis tools can help create better relationships without overstepping the customer’s boundaries.

On a whole, customers don’t mind companies using their data for personalizing their experience and suggesting products and services that benefit them.

 

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While human contact is diminishing in volume, the quality and importance of each interaction increases. Forward-thinking organizations should be balancing quantity with quality to maintain a competitive advantage in customer experience. Technology can be a great booster to that end.

Have more ways you think businesses can improve on their customer conversations? Reach out to us to add to the article. We love chatting to like-minded people!

What Makes a Great Customer Support Team?

Sometimes perfection fails to exist at an individual level; but when individuals who are not perfect, come to work together as a team, they can create magic. For a team to succeed it does not require flawless employees with everything being perfect. It just requires a bond between workers which allows them to work together to provide fruitful results.

Customer support is an important aspect of business which helps in turning every customer into an advocate for the brand. Even for brands that do not have high sums of money up their sleeves, customer support is a method they can employ to out-support the competition they cannot out-spend.

A great customer support team is an amalgamation of numerous shared characteristics and vision.

Here are some qualities that make a great Customer Support Team:

Operate as a Company

For a brilliant customer support team, their work is just not limited to a department. They work for the company and as the company. We have seen and heard of countless instances where customer support teams have saved the day for an organization at the hour of need. A customer support team vying to achieve greatness should think of themselves as representatives of the company to the outside world.

Related:
Customer Service: Its Importance and Value
How to Do Customer Service The Right Way

It is them, who is in contact with customers 24/7. Top level management is not present at all times, and they have to make instant and result-oriented decisions in the heat of a moment. The liberty to make these decisions should be provided, which would help the team keep the interests of the customer above anything else.

Everyone Should be Kept Updated

Another important trait of a successful customer service team is to keep everyone within the team in the loop. Unity comes from clarity. There is bound to be friction and differences within team members if information is provided to only a few and hidden from the rest. Everything should be laid down in front of all team members, and all the team members should be directed towards achieving the goals in unison.

Study Data Carefully

Customer trends are every-changing, as there is no single trend which can be called everlasting. To remain on track with all recent and updated trends, it is best to study trends and reach conclusions based on the fluctuations. The latest trend in customer service is that customers want to know how their concerns and feedback are being addressed by the organization.

analyze customer data

Many a times, organizations ask customers to give their feedback, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. Customers that provide the feedback now want to know how exactly it is being catered to. Have their concerns been taken care of? Are there any incentives being offered on the feedback? These questions need to be answered for the customers to trust the organization. A customer support team, wary of all the latest trends and details will realize what the customer exactly wants and will deliver that to them. On the contrary, another team which fails to do the homework will not provide the customers with what they want and would later rue the low conversion rates.

Know How to Turn Complaints into a positive Experience

A good customer support team should know the art of turning a complaint or a bad experience into a positive experience. They should know that customers calling in with complaints are not frustrated with them but are just irritated because of the situation.

There are two ways of handling a complaint. You can either worsen the situation even more with ignorant reasoning or you can give the customer the understanding they require and go towards finding a solution with mutual agreement. The latter is without a doubt the better stance and an trademark of great support teams.

Handling a complaint might look like a hassle, but there are few directions you can follow to reach consensus. The CARP formula is considered as the best method of effectively solving a complaint and turning into a positive experience for both the company and the customer.

  • Control by owning the situation
  • Acknowledge problem or the issue
  • Refocus the conversation
  • Problem solution

Reach Out to the Level a Customer Wants

The worst customer support teams are those, which follow a script and do not do anything out of their comfort zone. A customer support team should know when and how to step out of their zone and to reach out to the customers level. This is exactly where the team’s communicative skills come into perspective. They can be developed and coherently taught during training sessions. Instead of using negative connotations such as ‘We can’t’ the team members should use phrases such as ‘Here is what we can do for you or offer you.’ With the proper use of positive terms, the customer will feel at ease and eventually adjust to the warm conversation.

What are the ways to leverage Social Media to enhance Customer Service?

Wondering how to generate more leads successfully? You just have to go where the people hang out. With 1.23 billion users on Facebook and 271 million users on Twitter, you clearly have to make your presence felt on social media. Not only is it the most effective means of business promotion, but is also very cost-effective. If you know to how to effectively leverage this medium to your advantage, you can retain your customers and attract new ones. Interacting with your customers directly and fostering relationships results in your loyal customer base expanding.  Polls indicate 63% of small business owners find social media an effective source of promoting their business and that it is a successful means of creating more loyal customers.

using social media to enhance customer service

Below are the Ways on How to Utilize Social Media to Enhance Customer Service

1. Regular Interaction with Customers

You probably already have a social media profile on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and more. However, in order to interact with your customers, you must have a separate social networking profile for your business.

2. Start Blogging

Create a blog for your business to share news about new products, latest promotions, or simply share useful information related to your products or services.

Related:
Blogging — Just What Your Business Needs To Boost Your Online Marketing

3. Ask For Feedback and Respond To It

Encourage your customers and followers to give your feedback regarding your services and products. Create polls and surveys and ask your followers, friends, and regular customers to provide feedback. Furthermore, it is essential to always respond to whatever feedback you get from your fans or followers. If there is any complaint, immediately act on it and provide solutions to the customers. Ask for suggestions. This will make the customers feel important and involved, subsequently resulting in an increase in their loyalty towards your business.

4. Regularly Monitor Online Feedback

There are several other mediums online where your customers can give feedback about your services and products besides your official website, blog, or social networking profiles. You must be aware of what individuals are saying about your products and business. Use tools or search engines like Google Analytics to look for reviews and feedback.

5. Know Your Competition Better

Keep an eye on review sites where people provide their feedback about products and services they used. This is not merely to see what people are saying about your business but also to know what they are saying about your competitors and determine what you can do to improve your business. For example, if they are providing special offers which the consumers love then maybe it is a wise idea for your business to launch a special offer as well.

6. Understand the Needs of Your Customers

If your customers are regularly sending your queries or complaints, then maybe it is time to really look into the problem and find its root cause. Change or modify the processes, if needed, to satisfy the needs of your customers. For example, you can add a FAQ section to answer the most regularly received queries.

Through social media, you can effectively promote and market your business in order to reach maximum number of your customers. It is better to have a strong social media plan to ensure that your business maintains a positive presence on the web and bring positive results for your business.

Top 10 Incredibly Busy Customer Service Teams

A customer service team which values its customers usually correlates to successful and profitable businesses. Companies such as Amazon, Zappos and Dollar Shave club immediately come to mind. And while the task is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, there are some customer service teams which pride themselves on their ability to churn out brilliance despite being kept on their toes by picky and hard-to-please customers. With internet customer service growing rapidly, managing all the various facets of customer service can indeed be a hassle. Despite the complexities present, there are a few organizations which have risen up to the challenge and have catapulted over all hurdles to provide exemplary customer satisfaction. Here we take a look at some of the busiest and world class customer service teams during the last couple of years.

10 Companies with Incredible Customer Service Teams

1. Amazon

Amazon boasts of a customer service team extended over numerous channels. It is indeed their ability to provide immeasurable assistance to customers throughout their buying process, which ranks them as one of the best customer service teams.

amazon company with incredible customer service team

 

With a refund policy that exudes perfection and a transparent shipment process, Amazon is one of the few organizations that value customer satisfaction as a primary goal moving into the future. With their recent stand against incentivized reviews, Amazon is currently a darling among customers of all kinds looking for genuine products. Their emphasis on customer service has resulted in consistent growth in revenues and reputation.

2. Spotify

Webby Awards have been known to honour organizations which provide ‘excellence on the web’. For the last two years, there has been one specific company which has stolen the show. With the best customer service award from Webby under their belt, Spotify has proved to be revolutionary in the way it handles its internet customer service.

 

spotify one of the companies with incredible customer service team

Customers have not shied away from posting their admiration of SpotifyCares, which is a separate customer support team from the music giant. With such brilliant customer service, Spotify has indeed built a reputation – a reputation which will reap fruits in numerous sales opportunities down the line.

3. Apple

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs believed that success was guaranteed if the start is made from focusing on customer experience. Whatever product you market, make sure that you do not compromise on the experience of the end consumer. By providing customer service which has perfection written over it, Apple has inspired unbelievable loyalty to its brand.

The employees at all of their workshops have a positive attitude and discuss product details with customers more like fans of Apple than employees of the company. Not only is the after sales service engaging, but the internet customer service provided by Apple is well above par.

4. Dollar Shave Club

What makes a recent start-up rank among the organizations offering the best customer service? Just recently Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for $1 Billion. Dollar Shave Club does offer great products, but it is their brilliant customer service which attracted the likes of Uniliver. They boast of funny and playful ads which captivate user interest in a single beat. With their ads and customer service campaign, Dollar Shave Club has achieved customer loyalty no one would have expected.

dollar shave club brand logo - company with incredible customer service team

 

5. Zappos

A service company, with the motto of selling ‘ shoes and lot more,’ Zappos has put the needs of its customers above anything else. The Zappos team has on numerous occasions displayed proficiency in caring for all their customers irrespective of how little or big their problem. With Zappos well on its way to establishing a brand that will last for a long time, the customer service team deserves all the credit for this meteoric rise.

6. Nordstorm

Much like Zappos, Nordstorm is also well known for a few occasions when their customer service team went out of the box to think up creative ideas. With growth on the cards, their customer service team has a very important role to play in the future.

7. Samsung

Samsung, the tech giant must be appreciated for improving its once-flawed customer services. By investing in its team and realizing the benefits of customer service, Samsung is on the right track.

8. Google

One sure thing about Google is that it goes to borderline insane levels to check every single feature of its products before they are implemented. Their success cannot be doubted, considering their special emphasis on users and their preferences.

9. FED EX

The air freight company has displayed perfection in maintaining its reputation of taking care of all packages and instruments. From regular packages to a 320-pound sea turtle, FED EX has always made sure to surpass customer expectations.

10. Trader Joe’s

They do not boast of the most comprehensive range of products, but this retail’s emphasis on providing just what the local community wants, placing them on top of the ladder for customer services. Trader Joe’s started with a limited amount of products and stock levels, but eventually they started catering to what the people living in the local community wanted. By placing customer needs on top Trader Joe’s has certainly set a brilliant benchmark.

 

traders joe - one of the company with an amazing customer service team

Brilliant customer service teams do not compromise on customer experience. For them, nothing comes in between delivering the perfect product or service to the customer.

Customer Privacy in a Nutshell

Think that maintaining the confidentiality of consumers is only a consideration for business giants like Sony or Facebook? Think again.

In recent years, numerous small and big organizations have not only lost their customer base due to privacy issues but were also sued due to these privacy mishaps. In the modern world, organizations are, morally as well as legally, obligated to deal with the private information of their customer base fairly and respectfully.

See also: Customer Engagement

Customer Privacy: Comcast Vows to Respect Consumers’ Privacy

Comcast – a big name in global telecommunication recently pledged respect for the private information of the customers. The giant decided to distance itself from ISPs like Verizon or AT&T that lobbied the Congress to dissolve internet privacy protection.

Complying with federal privacy protection laws, Comcast first supported the removal of newly-imposed regulations. However, it clearly stated that it has no intention of selling the customer’s histories or web browsing data, and will ensure the privacy of consumers’ data.

Wonder how Google always show results and advertisements that match your current or existing interests?

The Sharing nature of consumers:

Just by visiting a website, you may be unwittingly sharing your personal information, in terms of your IP address, the page that led you to this current website and the websites you have been visiting over and over again, or the searches you have been making over the internet.

And by collecting cookies and with various advanced tracking mechanisms, companies are gathering enough information to shift user priorities and experiences pretty easily, and without directly communicating with the end user.

Eventually, what you are most likely to find on the webpage in terms of advertisements, news, and updates is everything related to your current interests!

So isn’t it good to get such kind of personalization as a user?

Yes, it is, except in the situation when your personal information is misused, through various means and for many reasons. There is a lot of consideration, amongst many big and small start-ups in Australia, for the privacy issues and what users are actually risking while reaping this kind of personal experience.

With the increasing level of awareness amongst users about this cyber threat, companies are now forced to shift their business strategies to maintain the confidentiality of the information along with meeting their customers’ expectations.

Consumer Privacy as part of an Organisation’s Business Strategy

Every business strategy is now focusing on keeping customer privacy as their prime consideration in establishing laws and policies. Some businesses, however, fail to understand the importance of the data acquired by them, as well as the risks attached, and the responsibility that lies on their shoulders for its protection.

business strategy on consumer privacy

With the endless possibilities of using this data, consumers’ data is one of the most effective tools and a golden opportunity for companies to build their goodwill. Majority of the time, businesses take consumer privacy in account, only after witnessing an incident, which is why many organizations in Australia, are now changing the way they do business – keeping a good and fair balance between marketing strategies and protecting consumer privacy.

To keep it all transparent, companies are now also making these moves;

  • Better and clear communication of the organization’s privacy policies through different channels and ways that would keep it easy for customers to understand.
  • To foster trust, companies are now striving to ensure that a secured online environment is provided at all times.
  • Giving customers a better choice through various features and permission options, about sharing their private information or allowing collection of their data. Many websites are now including well-designed opt-out pages to give full control to the user for allowing or declining the collection of data.
  • Company websites are now using short term cookie timelines, also making the collected data anonymous frequently. Creating anonymous data requires masking of IP addresses and cookie identifiers, after a short while, or storing the information related to the account separately from the logs, to ensure improved security and privacy for their users.

Australian Government and Consumer Privacy

There are some privacy changes coming soon, in the next year, and organizations in Australia must be ready to adapt to these changes that establish a strong control of consumer privacy.

Some of these changes may include;

Data breach notification is becoming mandatory from February 2018, for all organizations/entities, which are required to act in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988. Following that, in May, the GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation – is also coming into force.

Together, both of these amendments, or let’s say requirements, are going to demand fundamental changes in all Australian organizations, in terms of handling consumers’ personal information, also setting the stage to introduce some of the largest privacy regulation changes in the last decade.

4 Terribly Executed Customer Strategies that People Use

Having a good customer service strategy is really important if you want your business to run smoothly. One wrong experience for a customer and it can create a snowball effect for the company and can ruin your brand image.

Unfortunately, bad customer experience is inevitable and there will come a point in time where you will have to deal with some dissatisfied customers. This is a good way to see any cracks in the management and service of your company and you can learn from the experience.

How you respond and react to your customers sets the tone for good damage control. No matter what the trends of marketing strategy for a business may be, one thing remains true that the customer is king. The customer might not always be right but you don’t have to let them know this. Your mission should always be to deliver the best, in any way possible, without causing any further problems for the people who help you run your business, a.k.a. the customers.

4 Ways of NOT Carrying out a Customer-Driven Strategy

1. Not following the market trends

Times have changed drastically since the advent of the internet. Marketing strategies have evolved over time and most of the ad campaigns rely heavily on online strategies to target customers.  Online marketing tools are in fact, so important for any business that it is almost impossible to survive. Even mom and pop run businesses need some online marketing tools these days to attract more customers.

Using SEO based strategies to come up in the search results is just one of the many examples of how you can create a more customer-focused strategy. Cookies that follow online users and Adwords are also crucial to the online marketing mix.

See also:Customer Experience Strategy

2. Not including social media

These days, companies have at least one social media page even before they have a website. There is also a flipside to it; businesses that already have websites are now creating their own social media pages and strategies to target their customers.

Thus today, social media is like an extension of your business. A customer might not sit down specifically to send you an email or feedback for the product or service you are selling. But if you have a social media account that they follow and regularly use, there are higher chances of them coming to your page and leaving feedback. Your social media posts would be on their timeline or feed frequently and they will almost always respond or comment on it.

Social media for customer driven strategy

3. Not following up

Customer satisfaction and feedback are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes you have to nudge the customers a little to know what their opinion is and ask for their suggestions. A little bit of tweaking and change can go such a long way and in doing so, you will also gain their trust by showing that you genuinely care about their opinions.

Reach out to your customers by any means necessary after providing them with any service or product. You can have a questionnaire or online feedback form filled or send them an email. Having a rating and review feature like Amazon is a good example.

4. Not seeing things from the customers’ perspective

Many businesses just view their customer base as a bunch of numbers or a portion of the pie that they wish to devour. They should realize that at the end of the day, they are dealing with a large group of unique individuals that have to be catered to, according to their needs. Using the same cookie-cutter approach doesn’t do well all the time. Customers now know that when their rights are being stepped over. Even if the customer is wrong in a situation, businesses should never point it out in a way that would make them leave for good.

Connecting with the customers on a personal level and making them realize that they are dealing with people who care, is the best customer-centered approach any business can use.

Know Your Customer, Like You Know Your Friends

Guest Post by Parker Hathaway

customer service friend

I was in a conversation with friend this week. He’s an avid murder mystery and investigative reporting fan. He loves shows like Making of a Murderer60 Minutes20/20, and True Detective. I asked him if he was a podcast fan. He said he wasn’t. With a grin, I leaned in and said, “I’m about to change your month. Have you heard of Serial?”

We need to know our customers like we know our friends.

Serial revolutionized podcasting, coming in with over 40 million downloads in its first season as it followed a murder mystery story week by week. My buddy devoured all 12 episodes and spent countless hours reading on the web about possible theories.

And I had no doubt he would.

We need to know our customers like we know our friends. The question is, how?

Peter McCarthy, founder of The Logical Marketing Agency, has laid the groundwork for us. He describes three buckets that help you identify your customer: (1) Demographics, (2) Psychographics, and (3) Behaviors. You can read more of his work here. For the exercise, take your customer and create the below three buckets and then start asking questions. Here’s a start:

Demographics:

Where do your customers live? What’s their age? occupation? income? political affiliation? urban or rural? gender? ethnicity? These are general questions that you might find on a census. However, you must dig deep. It’s laborious, but it will serve you in the long run. At the end of this exercise you should be able to picture your customer when he/she walks through the door, and that’s huge.

Psychographics:

How do your customers think? What do they believe in? What are their attitudes towards this or that? What are their preferences? What do they love? hate? crave? What are their emotions towards a given topic? What do they value? What gets them excited?! Make a list of emotions and attach a description of your customer to each. Use what you learn to write better copy or apply it to the design of your website or, better yet, your product! When we say “we feel,” we attribute a cognitive value. Learn what your customer feels.

Behaviors:

This is where things get exciting, especially if you have access to a large data depository. What does your customer do? What do they purchase? read? use? crave? search? How do they engage with social media? Instagram more than Facebook? Twitter more than Snapchat? What are patterns that you find with your customers? Why do they drop out at point of purchase? Use A/B testing as a tool to discover behaviors.

Next time: Identifying your customer can be laborious, but it’s crucial for risk mitigation and customer growth. I’m going to introduce you to tools that will help you to identify your customer in 30 minutes. These tools are free and fun to use!

‘Hire’ This Article About Milkshakes If You’re Struggling To Understand Customer Needs

Guest Post by Gaston Viau

How the Job-To-Be-Done theory can help you understand consumer behaviors and provide you an innovation compass

There are zillions of words written about how customer centricity leads companies to success.

However, the “customer-centric” term is sometimes misused as a catchall for customer feedback or customer satisfaction results, but making people happy is not enough. To have sustained success, companies must genuinely understand what the customer wants and needs, and implement the right internal and customer-facing processes, strategies and marketing actions to satisfy them.

Hands down, the best example of customer centricity is Amazon, whose mission says it all: “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company”.

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon

Last month, when struggling to define our customer personas at Virtual Lab better, Fede Boero recommended me to read Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen. This read introduced me to “Jobs-To-Be-Done” Theory, a way of looking at customers with a completely different lens which shed a lot of light on my discovery process.

Jobs Theory

“Job-to-be-done” involves a mindset change since it forces you to look at our product the way customers do. Clayton Christensen described this concept back in 2006, in this paper he wrote together with Intuit founder Scott Cook.
The theory just asks, “What job your product is hired to do?”.

People buy services and products to get specific jobs done; and while products come and go, the underlying JTBD doesn’t go away. A commonly used example is that people do not want a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter inch hole.

JTBD theory is a change in the lens we use to understand customer needs. The Job, not the consumer, is the fundamental unit of analysis.

To understand what’s the Job our product is hired to do, we need to find which progress the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance — what the customer hopes to accomplish. This growth or accomplishment is the job-to-be-done.

All of us have endless jobs to be done in our lives. Some are small (pass the time while waiting in the supermarket line); others are big (seek a more fulfilling job). Some are regular (pack some lunch early in the morning before leaving to work); some show up unpredictably (find a nearby auto repair shop after our car broke up during a trip). When buying a product, we’re mainly “hiring” it to help us do a certain job. If the product does the job well, we tend to hire that product over again when we confront the same job. On the other hand, if it does a crappy job, we “fire” it and look for a replacement.

The Milkshake Example

The canonical example used by Christensen to explain Jobs Theory is a milkshake.

Some years ago, McDonald’s was trying to increase the sales of their milkshakes. So, they would interview milkshake customers and explain to them that they were trying to improve the milkshakes to increase the sales. They would ask them if they would like bigger milkshakes, or new flavors (like root beer or orange), chocolatier or thicker milkshakes . However, after improving the milkshakes with the interviews results, they found that customers didn’t buy more milkshakes.

Christensen was hired as a consultant to help McDonald’s to nail this problem, and he applied his brand new Jobs Theory to solve it. To understand which job arose in the lives of some customers that caused them sometimes to hire a milkshake, Christensen studied a McDonald’s restaurant for 18 hours one day. It turned out that about half of the milkshakes were sold before 8:30 in the morning. It was the only thing the customer bought, they were alone, and they always got in the car and drove off with it.

To figure out what was that job, Christensen went back the next morning and positioned himself outside the restaurant so to confront these milkshake customers as they came out. He asked them: “What job are you trying to get done that cause you to come to McDonald’s to hire a milkshake at 6:30 in the morning?”

It turned out that they all had the same job to do. That is, they had a long and tedious drive to work. And they just needed something to have while driving to stay engaged with life and not fall asleep. The customer wasn’t hungry yet, but they knew they’d be hungry an hour later. So they needed something they could hold with their right hand while driving, and keep it for the whole commute.

This analysis showed that McDonald’s milkshakes were not competing against Burger King’s milkshakes. They were competing against bananas, snickers, donuts or even bagels to do the same job. However, milkshakes were much more convenient than their competitors since they were easier to consume, only one hand was needed, and they were so viscous that it would take them the whole commute to finish them up with that thin straw.

Customers didn’t care about the ingredients. All they cared about was to be still full at 10 am and have something to entertain them throughout their trip.

Unveiling what the job was, put McDonald’s on a very different trajectory. It explained the reason why there were no results after improving the milkshake on dimensions of performance that was irrelevant to the job-to-be-done

To improve the milkshake for the morning JTBD, McDonald’s moved the milkshake from behind the counter to the front. To help them not to be late for work, they also gave people a prepaid swipe card so they could just dash in, gas up, and go without being caught behind a line. They also made milkshakes thicker to take longer to suck them up, and so on.

When McDonald’s understood that they were competing against bananas, the sales of the milkshakes increased by 7x.

Four Takeaways

JTBD theory tells us how managers should think about customers, strategy, products, growth, and innovation. Here’re some pieces of advice:

1. Design a business around a JTBD

Products become obsolete, and this is why companies should instead create a business around the JTBD, which will lead them to sustainable success. This is why Ford moved from an auto company to a mobility & transportation company, opening the doors to markets such us ride-sharing.

2. Let customers get their entire job done

People do not want to have to put together diverse services or products to achieve their needs. They want only one service/product that helps them get the entire job done.

3. Target those customers who will pay the most to get the job done best

When a market is highly underserved, the fastest way to profits is first to target the people who will pay out the most to get that job done the best.

4. Let Jobs Theory guide the future of your company

The only products that will win the future are those that help customers get the job done better. Understanding where customers struggle today to execute the JTBD indicates what a particular product needs to do in the future to win in that market.

What are the Best Strategies to Ace Customer Engagement

Guest Post by Shane Barker

No matter what field you work in, customer engagement is just as essential as lead acquisition. In fact, 68% of marketers today say that their companies compete on the basis of customer experience.

However, many marketers still struggle with figuring out the best ways to keep their customers engaged; holding the attention of customers long enough to make an impact can be hard, time-consuming work. While old-school newsletters still have their place, they alone can’t cut it anymore in today’s competitive environment.

Request a FREE Conversational Software demo and learn effective customer conversation management.

Here are the Best Strategies to Ace Customer Engagement

So, what can you do to differentiate yourself from the competition and keep your customers coming back for more? Let’s take a quick look at a few options that you can consider. Not all of these are easy and some may not suit the kind of business you run, so pick what works for you. While some options may not be cheap, losing loyal customers will be far more expensive in the long run.

1. Start an Employee Advocacy Program

Your employees are the face of your brand, and their interactions with your customers can go a long way in retaining them. If they’re excited by your brand and believe in the products you have to offer, the customers they talk to will feel that. Conversely, if they are demotivated or unhappy, your customers are definitely going to pick up on that negativity.

An employee advocacy program can help shape your company’s reputation and culture online. By having your employees share snippets of their work life on social media, they can help to build your company’s image as a great workplace with an honest, hard-working team. Not only that — you can even leverage the knowledge of your subject matter experts to create content that has depth and authority.

To encourage participation, you can maintain leaderboards and offer incentives to employees who post the most or get the most engagement. Shoe retailer, Zappos, is well known for their employee advocacy program — snippets of which you can see on the official Zappos Culture Twitter.

2. Keep Customers Emotionally Connected

The best way to keep a customer engaged is to find ways for them to interact with your brand, even when they aren’t necessarily interested in buying one of your products. You can do this in a number of ways.

Build a Community

Build a sense of community around your product or service using free tools, such as a designated Twitter handle, Facebook Group, or other online forums where people can meet and exchange ideas.

The idea is to draw your customers into a social circle that is based on the love for your brand or products. Not only are people in these groups more likely to continue buying your products because others are passionately sharing about them, but they’re also likely to recommend them to their other social circles. Their involvement in the community will ensure that they are fully aware of your latest offerings with little marketing effort needed from you.

As an example, BMW manages official “Owners’ clubs” that help their customers connect and learn from one another. Their clubs have grown a big reputation for offering exclusive content, advice, and rewards for car lovers who buy from their brand.

Host Live Events

Hosting events,conferences, or webinars that will be of interest to your customers is a great way to engage them in a non-transactional setting. Many gaming studios take advantage of in-person events to meet and get feedback from some of their most loyal fans. For customers, it’s an opportunity to see what the company is working on, meet like-minded individuals, have their voices heard by game developers, or play demo builds of upcoming games.

BlizzCon by Blizzard-Activision and QuakeCon by Zenimax Media both draw in thousands of attendees each year. And tens of thousands more people watch the live-streams of the events online. Attending larger conventions is also an effective (and much cheaper) way to engage with your fans. However, hosting your own event is a great way to keep the focus entirely on you and your products.

3. Gamify the Customer Experience

While gamification of a customer experience can be difficult, it allows you to engage customers using the sense of instant gratification.

Digital contests and giveaways are great ways to spur customer engagement for mutually beneficial results. For instance, hair accessories company Whirl-a-Style hosted a web contest asking customers to share their #WhirlMyStyle hairdos for a cash prize. The company earned tons of customer testimonials and marketing UGC at a very low cost.

Similarly, you can introduce badges or achievements for customers who’ve hit a certain milestone or completed a particular task while using your products. This is incredibly useful when it comes to making sure they use your product or services often.

Gaming is already well known for the concept of unlocking achievements. Companies like Fitbit and other fitness tracker makers have had good results by introducing similar aspects to their products.

4. Target “Whales” for Customized Services

Loyalty programs are a great way to help keep customers engaged with your brand. But you can take it one step further with a tiered loyalty program. Identify customers who spend significantly more than average on your products and consider giving them some sort of V.I.P. status.

While more loyalty points or discounts are nice, customized services are even better. For example, access to a personal stylist at a clothing retailer who offers expert advice in styles suiting body types and personalities.

A personal touch is extremely valuable when it comes to instilling a sense of loyalty in your customers. While you may not be able to offer that to all your customers, make sure your “high-rollers” feel like they’re getting V.I.P. treatment.

5. Be Socially Responsible

Often maligned by older generations, millennials tend to be more environmentally and socially conscious than any other generation. (And considering that millennials are already the largest generation in the labor force, their loyalty will soon determine whether your business lives or dies.)

Millennials are far more likely to support brands that not only offer valuable products but also support social or environmental causes.

Consider picking a cause that you are interested in and promoting it regularly in your marketing efforts. It can be anything you want as long as you care deeply and sincerely about it. The sincerity is important because millennials are better than previous generations at spotting disingenuous marketing.

For example, Leesa donates a mattress to a homeless shelter for every tenth mattress sold. They even plant a tree for every order received.

6. Streamline Your Customer Experience

This option probably takes the most effort to put in place. Depending on how your business operates, it could require small changes or a total overhaul. The key here is to reduce the number of steps needed to complete a transaction. This applies to both physical and online stores.

Every step required to complete a purchase increases the likelihood of customers walking away from a purchase. In stores, these could be long lines, a slow checkout process, or lack of assistance to help make choices.

Fast food giants like McDonalds have attempted to improve the experiences of their customers with the addition of self-service kiosks. These help to drastically cut wait-times without needing to increase staffing requirements.

Online, Amazon introduced 1-click ordering, allowing existing customers to purchase items with a single click. This uses billing, delivery, and payment information that’s already linked to their account.

Another great way of improving your customer experience and managing excellent relationships is to use a CRM tool. Tools like Salesmate allow you to keep all of your customers’ contact information in one place. You can use it to run email campaigns that include informative and highly-targeted content. You can even do timely follow-ups for any sales queries or interest they may have shown.

Orginally published on Zoomph.

About the Author

Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing, product launches, sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.

Build Customer Empathy by Listening to Their Stories

Guest Post by Demian Borba

Whenever I start a conversation with someone, I think about how I can best connect with that person. Sharing stories is an excellent way in.

Stories not only reveal details about the storyteller, they allow you to connect on an emotional level. In fact, the connection may go even deeper.

study at Princeton found that during storytelling the brain activity in persons listening to a story closely matches that of the person telling it.

The analysis revealed that during successful communication the listener’s brain responses become similar to the speaker’s brain responses. This implies that people understand each other by mirroring each others’ brain responses. (Image courtesy of Uri Hasson during the Princeton study).

Stories can help create alignment. They can take you along on the roller coaster of the storyteller’s experiences, letting you in on the highs and lows, successes and defeats, and, importantly from a product manager standpoint, the needs and pain points they hit when working with a particular product.

As I noted in an earlier post, design thinking aims to build products people want, products they’ll find useful, and products that can reasonably be built given current technology. It’s the process that’s guided development of Adobe XD from the beginning.

Design thinking seeks to identify needs rather than solve problems. It follows five phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Empathizing with your customers means understanding where they’re coming from, what their needs are, and where the pain points are. We are not looking for hard truths here — we’re seeking insights.

To build empathy, we can lean on several anthropological techniques: watch people as they perform an activity, experience performing that activity ourselves, or conduct interviews with a selected subset of the people we want to learn about.

Successful interviews draw out stories; and successful interviewers know how to ask questions without getting in the way of the story.

Seek quality over quantity when collecting customer stories

Because stories are subjective, interviews must be qualitative, not quantitative. Rather than quick interviews with 100 people, you get better insights by talking to fewer people for a longer time. When forming your interview pool, look for a good mix of experience and interests.

For example, if your target number is 10, you might recruit six designers who fall within the mid-range of users and two to four “extreme users” — long-time users who have seen the products through multiple evolutions, or designers who use the products in an unusual way.

When interviewing, I typically follow a step-by-step process, outlined in the chart below.

First, I introduce myself, then the project and its purpose.

The next — and critical — step is to establish rapport, finding those moments in a conversation where you connect with your subject. You can create these connections through stories. Stories allow you to explore emotions and identify pain points.

Remember, you’re not trying to solve problems here; you’re just looking for the needs, driven by what users say or do, and by what users think or feel. Try not to limit your interview to a set time — allow time for the interview to evolve.

When you’ve finished, wrap it up, thank the interviewee, and you can move on to unpacking your findings and creating empathy maps.

Here, I’ve listed some practical tips for conducting interviews that can lead to powerful customer stories.

Get authentic customer stories with these nine interview techniques

1. Ask open-ended questions

Think about how you phrase your questions. Avoid starting with comments like “you know” or “normally,” which can influence the response. Ask open-ended questions such as, “tell me about the last time you did x or y.” This type of question will encourage your subject to tell a story rather than just answer “yes” or “no.”

Even if the stories aren’t true, they can reveal what the person thinks and feels. Moreover, in telling a story, the interviewee is likely to recall details he or she may have forgotten.

2. Always ask why

Be the curious kid. Even if you think you understand what the interviewee is describing, ask why.

In another post, I describe the five whys framework — that is, by asking five whys, you can get to the root of any problem. Never assume!

3. Look for inconsistencies

Sometimes, interviewees will describe a process that they don’t follow or make statements that aren’t true. You can usually tell based on their answers.

Inconsistencies are important because they can lead to insights about implicit needs — perhaps they’re explaining how something could be done better, if only . . .

4. Look for nonverbal signals

If the person you’re interviewing is fidgeting, twirling their hair, or avoiding eye contact, it’s possible that what they’re saying isn’t 100 percent true. There’s a vulnerability in not telling the truth, and it’s worth exploring.

People tend to act out how they feel, especially when they’re uncomfortable or nervous.

5. Don’t be afraid of silence

This can be one of the hardest tips to follow. It’s natural to want to help someone if you think they’re stuck or unsure. If your interviewee is silent after a question, give him or her time to think through the answer. It may take a minute or two, but be patient. You’ll get a better response.

6. Never suggest answers

Stay as neutral as possible. Often, if you propose an answer, the person you’re interviewing will agree, whether or not it’s what he or she wants or feels.

Instead of asking, “This is a good idea, right?” say, “What do you think of this?” or “How might you do this?”

7. Keep your questions concise

Long questions lose people. They’re confusing and people often aren’t sure which part of a multi-layered question to answer first.

As a general rule, I try to limit questions to 10 words.

8. Stick to one question at a time and one person at a time

It might be faster to interview several people together, but you’ll lose out on quality. Interviews are most successful when they’re one on one, so resist the urge to pull your teammates in as well.

Don’t overload the interview with multiple questions. Take your time and make sure each question is answered before moving on to the next.

9. Be sure to record the conversation

You’ll want to save the conversation for later unpacking. You can use audio, film, video, or even have someone sit in taking notes. You get the most immediate and authentic feedback when interviews are in person because there’s typically more friction when people meet face to face. However, interviews over Skype or the phone can yield great material as well.

Putting on your anthropologist hat at this first phase of design thinking will help you gather the stories you need. And those stories will ultimately help deliver products that meet the design thinking goals: desirable, usable, and technically practical.