Some conversations — including really tough conversations — are planned in advance. Most of the best conversations, however, are spontaneous, like when you run into a friend on the street or introduce yourself at a networking event. Effective business communication is a little different.
In customer service departments, almost all business communication is spontaneous, but rarely in a good way. Agents are caught off-guard by a troubleshooting issue, or they lack the necessary information to best help a particular customer. In other cases, the volume of service requests grows so quickly and unexpectedly that agents are overwhelmed, causing customer satisfaction to tank just as quickly.
The art of ‘conversational service’ is about having as natural and helpful a dialogue with customers as possible, but with everything in place behind the scenes to steer things to a successful outcome. If you’re not sure how conversational service differs from what companies have been doing before the arrival of Service Cloud, don’t worry. Just look (and listen) for the following signs to ensure you’ve not only mastered the essentials of business communication, but that you are taking it to a new level.
When communication in business becomes conversational service, it’s:
In a digital-first era, customers understand they’re most likely going to be reaching out via a call, an app, an email message or a website, and that whoever is on the other end is also scanning their monitor as a problem is being resolved. When agents seem to be making unnatural pauses as they scroll through a database or frantically wave over a coworker to double-check something, though, customers start to wonder what’s going on. If all agents are doing is reciting from a support script, meanwhile, the screen starts to feel like a sort of barrier between the customer and the company.
According to Deloitte, 62% of companies view customer experience delivered by contact centers as a competitive differentiator. That’s why having accurate information delivered seamlessly to an agent can not only build trust but give them the time needed to convey warmth and empathy. These are hallmarks of a good conversation, versus
what often happens during communication in business.
In some customer service environments, you can literally hear agents start to speed up as they go along, knowing that they are being evaluated in part based on how many calls they handle within a given time period. Customers who sense they are being rushed through the process don’t appreciate it, just as you don’t want someone to give a “wrap it up!” signal when you’re having a personal conversation.
Research from thinkJar shows 67% of consumers cite bad experiences as reason for no longer doing business with a company. Having to end the conversation with a customer before they’re fully satisfied can directly hit the bottom line.
Today, though, agents can use technology to not only pull up relevant information about a customer but simultaneously navigate across multiple service questions coming in through social media, texts or e-mail. That means productivity gets a boost and they know they can take the time they need to end the conversation when everything has been completely resolved.
There can be a bit of nervousness on the customer’s part after a support call, when they’re back on their own, trying to use a product that’s unfamiliar to them. In some cases, they might even feel a little embarrassed to reach out again right away for fear of looking somehow incompetent. That’s why one of the greatest business communication skills is making customers feel you are always there for them.
In practice, “being there” can take many forms. For example, tools like Service Cloud can extend conversations that may start through a contact centre call to a text message thread where you just “check in” to make sure everything’s going smoothly. Given that 90% of customers saying they have had poor experience seeking customer support on mobile, according to research firm Software Advice, bringing conversational service to this channel can be a big differentiator.
Customers want to feel recognized. In other words, if they start a conversation via email, they don’t want to be treated like strangers if they follow up via phone call. It doesn’t matter which business communication channels they pursue: PwC says omni-channel customer experiences will need to be “near perfect” by 2020.
The best customer service applications can meet that kind of expectation by using chatbots to assist with common troubleshooting issues via text, for instance, then hand off to an agent for more complicated questions. Just like speaking to a friend doesn’t change much if it starts off by phone and continues in person, companies can make these transitions feel much more natural and smooth for customers.
When a friend calls up on your smartphone, what do you see? Maybe their name, their phone number and possibly their photo. There’s something reassuring about these small details, especially when they’re consistently delivered. Contrast that with typical communication in business, where customers are put through the equivalent of the third degree before they can ask their question or bring forward their problem.
This is a bigger deal than many realize. In fact, consulting firm Accenture has found that 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their information to multiple representatives. Eliminating this kind of redundancy should be a top priority across every sector. The technology is already here to make it happen, where agents will get details about a customer forwarded to them as though it were a personal introduction from the agent who last dealt with that person.
Business communication may always be a little more structured and formal than how we talk with our friends and family, but conversational service goes beyond problem-solving or troubleshooting. It nurtures relationships with customers that will be impossible to disrupt.
Social, mobile, connected, and cloud technologies have changed the way customers expect service. Check out our ebook, "5 Ways to Make Service Easy for Today’s Customers," with more ways you can make the service experience easy for your customers.