Conversations are the foundation of the customer experience.
Through meaningful and productive conversations, you can boost customer delight and build lasting relationships.
And in today’s era of digital transformation, effective communication across all channels has never been more essential.
In fact, research has found that conversational web chat is how 40% of consumers worldwide first start virtual shopping.
Therefore, it’s crucial that businesses and their contact center teams are experts in the handling of customer conversations.
But navigating customer interactions is not always an easy feat.
It’s a skill that requires balancing rapport and value with efficiency and problem solving.
So, if you’re striving to master the art of customer conversations for your organization – you’ve come to the right place.
In this article we’ll cover:
- The power of conversations
- Best practices for customer conversations
- The top digital channels for customer conversations
- How to manage difficult conversations
The power of conversations
Conversations play a huge role in determining the quality of customer experiences.
This is critical because 80% of consumers consider the experience that a business provides to be as important as its products and services.
A single conversation can shape or change the outcome of the entire customer journey.
It can transform a frustrated or rude customer into a happy one, and vice versa. It can also mean the difference between a successful conversion and an abandoned one.
Customer conversations have the power to humanize your customer service team.
They allow agents to build rapport with your customer base and learn more about their needs and expectations.
As a result, you can establish stronger connections with your customers and strengthen brand loyalty.
So, if you want to fully reap the rewards of customer conversations, you should make use of the following best practices.
Customer conversations: Best practices
In order to optimize customer interactions, you must take the time to provide impactful conversations that add value to your brand experience.
You can start by implementing the following practices into your business or contact center strategy.
1. Establish a first-rate customer support team
The best place to start with improving customer conversations is with your customer service teams.
It’s essential that you invest in training your employees on customer engagement and communication.
Such training should cover skills like:
- Practicing active listening
- Expressing empathy
- Use of positive language
- How to be concise and clear (but not blunt!)
- Asking the right questions
- Prioritizing interactions by urgency
- Multitasking (i.e. handling multiple conversations at once)
You might consider creating a customer conversations style guide that your agents can refer to.
That way, your customers will receive a consistent experience across all engagement channels.
It’s also important that your contact center team are trained to be experts in the products or services that your business offers.
This will ensure that they can provide accurate information and advice.
At the end of the day, your support agents are the front-line ambassadors for your business.
All of their customer conversations must be an authentic reflection of your desired brand image.
2. Personalize interactions
It’s imperative that you see each customer as a unique person with their own set of needs and preferences.
This means that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to conversing with customers and addressing their issues. You need to offer personalized experiences.
Customers want to be talked to like individuals. They don’t want to feel like they’re just a number or a sale.
In fact, 64% of customers now expect personalized interactions that are based on their past engagement with your brand.
And, according to Accenture, a third of customers who abandon a business relationship do so due to a lack of personalization.
You can personalize customer conversations by utilizing customer data or features like Talkative’s customer journey mapping.
3. Improve response times
One of the key elements of successful conversations is responding to your customers fast.
Research indicates that 75% of consumers consider a quick response time to be the most important element of the digital customer experience.
On top of that, 78% of customers buy from the business that replies to them first.
You should endeavor to make your response times as fast as possible, for all customer conversations, across all digital channels.
4. Encourage customer feedback
Part of having meaningful conversations is actively encouraging your customers to share their feedback, both positive and negative.
Through customer conversations, your agents have the opportunity to discover your customer service strengths and areas for improvement.
Your agents should ask customers about their overall feelings towards your business and how they found their experience.
They should also enquire whether customers have any further concerns or suggestions beyond the original reason for the interaction.
When you use conversations to actively search for ways to improve, you emphasize that you care about your customers and their experiences.
This makes them feel valued as well as increasing the likelihood of retention and repeat purchases.
5. Provide an omnichannel experience
For optimal customer conversations, you should consider implementing omnichannel software.
By doing this, you’ll be able to manage all of a customer’s conversations with your business in one place - there’s no need to dig up previous interaction data.
And, all of your contact channels will be integrated so that your customers can effortlessly switch between them throughout their interaction.
This means that you can provide a smooth and seamless customer experience at all digital touchpoints of your business or contact center.
Offering omnichannel options also gives your customers the choice to use any of their favorite platforms.
They can converse with your agents via the channels that they feel most comfortable with whilst receiving the same quality of service across the board.
This will increase the likelihood that they will reach out to your business when they need help, rather than becoming frustrated and turning to your competitors.
Customer conversations: Top channels
Knowing the best practices for customer conversations is only truly useful if your business also has the right channels to facilitate meaningful interactions.
Consider the following top digital channels for communicating with your customers.
1. Live chat
Live chat is the essential digital channel for customer conversations.
An astounding 90% of consumers consider live chat to be helpful and 51% are more likely to remain loyal to a company that offers live chat support.
Live chat allows your website visitors to have real-time, personalized conversations with your support or sales team via instant messaging.
It’s the ideal channel for customers seeking convenient and humanized assistance.
And, with Talkative’s live chat, you can easily escalate any customer conversation to a voice call or video chat if required.
Integrating live chat is a great way to increase customer engagement and lead generation.
Our customer Healthspan, for example, has seen a 500% increase in customer conversations since launching Talkative’s live chat, plus a direct uplift in online sales.
SMS messaging is one of the most popular digital channels for customer conversations.
According to research by Market Strategies, 66% consumers rank SMS as their first or second favorite way to contact a business.
Not only can you use SMS to converse with customers, you can also use it to send them surprise personalized offers or discounts.
This proactive customer service is a great way to entice customers and initiate meaningful conversations.
It’s also very effective, as 61% customers believe that surprise offers or gifts are the best way to engage them.
3. Social media
Social media is a valuable channel for connecting emotionally with your customers through meaningful engagement.
It can be used to communicate with a massive amount of demographics as it has a huge global usage. Almost 60% of the world’s entire population regularly uses social media.
Social media is thus a powerful tool for conveying the essence of your business.
It lets you creatively portray your brand narrative to the world through content and interactions.
You should consider implementing live chat for social media in order to engage directly with customers in one-to-one chats, via your social platforms.
Through customer conversations via social media, businesses can forge lasting relationships and convey their brand personality.
Top tactics for difficult conversations
Handling difficult customer conversations can be extremely challenging.
There’s not always a perfect solution to a customer’s issue and this can lead to tense interactions where emotions are running high.
It’s imperative that your customer service teams are well equipped to navigate these tough situations in the best possible way.
The following tactics will help your employees manage difficult customer conversations effectively.
When used successfully, these techniques will not only help taper volatile situations- they can also improve customer relations and your brand’s public image.
1. Apologize sincerely
Starting a difficult conversation with a genuine apology can go a long way when a customer is dissatisfied or unhappy.
Discontented customers are sometimes placated just by hearing that another person empathizes with their dilemma.
An agent apologizing and accepting responsibility for the customer’s problem doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the one at fault.
It simply gives the customer an individual to talk to instead of fuming at a faceless organization.
An apology also conveys empathy and compassion for the customer. It shows them that their complaint is being heard and their feelings are valid.
2. Get to the point
When a customer is reporting a problem or expressing dissatisfaction, they’re going to be feeling some level of frustration.
Therefore, it’s important that you cut to the chase and explain your plan of action to help them as quickly and directly as possible, but without being brusque.
Your communication needs to be concise, relevant, accurate and focused to resolving the customer’s issue.
The following is a simplified but useful template to refer to for the structure of a problematic customer conversation:
- Listen attentively to the customer’s full complaint without interrupting
- Apologize outright and admit any mistakes
- Clearly explain the game plan and the next steps that will be taken to reach a solution
- If further contact is required, let them know when and how this will be initiated (and make sure that this follow-up actually happens)
- Apologize again and, if appropriate, you might want to offer them a reconciliation gift to make up for the mishap (e.g. a voucher for future purchases)
Of course, not all difficult conversations will be this straightforward.
There will be cases where a customer problem cannot simply be resolved. In these instances, always express willingness to escalate the issue or find an alternative solution.
3. Avoid letting emotions take over
Difficult customer conversations can be very confrontational involving strong negative feelings.
You may be faced with emotional customers taking out their frustrations on you.
In these scenarios, it’s natural to feel your own anger or frustrations arise when you’re being ranted at for things that may be beyond your control or responsibility.
But, it’s vital that you exercise control over these emotions and keep a level head.
You must remain calm, polite and professional throughout all customer interactions, even difficult ones.
Take a deep breath and try to avoid negative language. If the conversation is taking place via a voice call or video chat, keep your voice calm.
If it’s over live chat, double check your messages before you send them.
Ensure that you’re keeping the conversation productive and that your emotions have not manifested in your words.
But remember, all this is not to say that agents should tolerate outright abuse from customers. Employees need to feel safe and supported.
In abusive situations, agents should be allowed to end or escalate the conversation.
The takeaway: Meaningful conversations benefit your business
Undoubtedly, the way you interact with customers has a significant impact on your business and contact center.
Customer conversations are fundamental in enhancing customer delight, increasing conversions and building brand loyalty.
And nothing delivers valuable customer experiences quite like consistently exceptional communication.
It’s crucial, therefore, that your support and sales teams are masters at handling all kinds of customer conversations – including difficult ones.
Ultimately, connecting meaningfully with customers is at the heart of business success.
But if you want to truly connect with your customers, you need the right platform to facilitate it.
A platform that’s specifically designed to provide a more human approach to digital customer service.
And that's where Talkative comes in.
Our Consultative Service Platform provides a complete suite of engagement channels that'll empower your customer advisors to connect instantly, and effortlessly, with your digital customers.
In turn, you'll be able to deliver more personable and profitable customer conversations.
Want to learn more? Book a demo with Talkative today.