When it comes to interacting with brands these days, customers are firmly in the driver’s seat. They’re used to reaching out when and where they want, from traditional call center channels to websites and apps, and to social media accounts. Across them all, brands are under pressure to make sure every experience is a good one.
Unfortunately, it’s often the case that these experiences simply don’t feel connected. Customer profiles, histories, and inquiries get lost when customers transition from one channel to another. This means that, even if each singular experience stands up well enough on its own, brands are missing a critical opportunity to build long-term rapport.
If a customer has to start from scratch, filling out information or answering questions they’ve already answered, they will ultimately feel like the brand doesn’t know or care about them. Not only is that frustrating for the customer it can be costly for the brand, impacting both loyalty and operational efficiency.
That’s where unified customer engagement comes into play, allowing brands to build seamless relationships with customers across their entire journey.
If your brand wants to make the move from providing siloed experiences to creating more meaningful and holistic long-term customer engagement, here are four tips for getting you there.
1. Forget about one-and-done experiences.
No matter how they reach out, customers want to know that they can expect consistent, connected engagements.
In fact, 87% of consumers worldwide prefer brands that connect their interactions across voice and messaging, according to LivePerson’s Voice and Messaging 2022: Consumer Preferences Around Automation and CX survey.
Underscoring the point even further, 88% of consumers say they are more likely to do business with a company that connects the history of their interactions. Moreover, 82% say the same for a company whose bots take what the company already knows about them and can apply it to their personal situations.
Customers...really don't want to start over from scratch every time they interact with a brand.
These stats make it overwhelmingly clear that customers want brands to have a basic understanding of who they are and what they’ve asked for in the past. Whenever and however they choose to get in contact with you.
Customers also really don’t want to start over from scratch every time they interact with a brand.
Another finding from the survey revealed that they’re extremely frustrated when they have to repeat themselves. Even with all of the advances we’ve made in marketing and customer experience (CX) tech, 84% of consumers say they’ve had to repeat themselves “often” or “all the time” when contacting brands.
What’s more, a large majority (65%) stated that the number one thing brands can do to make their experiences better is prevent them from having to repeat themselves.
Here’s the bottom line: brands are still fumbling the transition between channels, and in many cases also ignoring all of the historical data they have about their customers.
But by connecting these experiences and making use of data that’s already available to them, brands can build better customer engagement strategies, creating real, ongoing relationships between them and their customers.
After all, your friend wouldn’t forget everything about you every time you meet up for coffee. Customers are coming to expect better relationships with brands, with ongoing dialogs informed by history and trust resulting in more authentic connections.
2. Give customers options to engage via messaging or voice, or even switch between the two.
There’s no longer any debate about whether customers want to engage with their favorite brands via messaging. In fact, 74% say they are more likely to do business with a company if they could message rather than call them. This makes sense intuitively, as messaging is what most of us do every day to stay in touch with friends, family, and coworkers.
Still, while messaging offers clear benefits to both the brand and the customer, and consumer appetite for chatbots nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021, there remain instances when people prefer to pick up the phone.
In fact, preferences fluctuate depending on where people are and what they are doing. When at home, 53% of consumers prefer to call, but during work hours (when most businesses are actually open), 75% prefer to message.
Preferences also change depending upon a customer’s intent. In general, consumers prefer to message instead of call – except when it comes to getting their money back.
When it comes to getting a refund, 54% prefer to call, and when addressing credit card fraud, 69% prefer calling. However, for most situations, messaging is their preferred method of engagement:
- 78% prefer to message to get a shipping or delivery update.
- 77% prefer to message to book or reschedule an appointment.
- 75% prefer to message to get a product recommendation.
- 76% prefer to message to reorder regularly purchased products.
- 66% prefer to message to make a purchase.
- 66% prefer to message to make a payment.
- 56% prefer to message to renew or cancel a service.
All in all, despite the ongoing shift towards messaging, customers want to be able to choose between voice and messaging depending upon their situation and their intent.
Brands that offer a choice stand to improve their relationship with customers, and as highlighted above, remembering interactions across these channels is crucial to building loyalty.
3. Use artificial intelligence (AI) to hold more human, personalized conversations at scale.
Let’s face it: it’s extremely costly to connect every consumer in your world with a human agent. Between dealing with labor shortages and struggling to retain talent, brands that rely on humans to pick up phones have seen hold times spin out of control, leading to disastrous customer experiences.
Thankfully, Conversational AI-powered chatbots are starting to feel more human every day – with increased abilities to listen, self-correct, and adapt to emotions, moving beyond the superficial tones of early chatbots. Chatbots can now engage in two-way conversations that feel personalized and more natural.
With Conversational AI, you can respond quickly and seamlessly to any number of consumers at once. This means building an engagement strategy around AI helps avoid a situation customers truly hate, which is waiting on hold.
As chatbots and the technologies supporting them evolve, they will take an increasing load off human agents.
Put simply, the longer your customer waits for you to engage, the more your relationship suffers. AI can scale conversations to make engagement with millions of consumers feel as timely and personalized as one-on-one interactions. Meaning your customers have more options for reaching out and getting answers quickly.
Because of this scale and efficiency, brands are using Conversational AI across all kinds of messaging channels, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, SMS, and more.
Chatbots are available anywhere, anytime to resolve issues quickly, and they also free up agents to focus on the most high-value parts of a conversation that need the human touch. They can even pull in human agents as needed when that’s the best next step, dancing a “tango” to meet customer needs without making the experience feel disjointed or broken.
As chatbots and the technologies supporting them evolve, they will take an increasing load off human agents. Besides just answering easy questions, AI can also help prioritize agent queues, signal agents on the right moments to step into automated conversations and assist them with the right content for each turn of the dialog.
This time and energy saved for agents can then be put towards more targeted customer conversations to improve customer-brand relationships. All customer conversations, no matter the channel, should be focused on quality connection to build customer engagement: and conversational AI helps deliver on that promise across all channels.
4. Dig into data across voice and messaging to get to know your customers and continually improve.
With so many interactions happening between brands and customers every moment of the day, brands have a wealth of data at their fingertips to learn from their successes and mistakes, then optimize customer engagement going forward.
All of this conversational data, drawn from both voice and messaging engagements in real time, can be used to identify trends and improve customer journeys. Using data to identify patterns in customer behavior can even help brands get out of the business of being reactive by delivering “preventive care” that identifies and fixes problems that harm customer engagement.
Conversational data is becoming even more important in a world that’s moving away from traditional data tracking methods, including website cookies. As regulations and consumer preferences drive the shift away from cookies, customer conversations open up opportunities to collect customer data in a new way – simply by asking for it.
Customer service and marketing teams tasked with getting to know their customers without cookies can turn to conversational data to figure out how to build loyalty and affinity among customers: while still respecting their right to privacy.
After all, it takes more than clicks and survey data to improve customer engagement. What better way than to analyze your customers’ own words?
...deeper understanding of the customer journey allows brands to offer the right support to the customer at the right time...
With customer journeys typically spanning multiple departments and systems, and measurement tools like surveys offering only snapshot visibility into how the customer feels, this leaves obstacles in the way of understanding and engaging with customers.
However, insights from conversational data can be used to connect voice and messaging with other systems, like CRMs and business intelligence tools, to help bridge these gaps and silos.
This deeper understanding of the customer journey allows brands to offer the right support to the customer at the right time, while also piecing together the bigger picture of long-term customer engagement strategy.
Treating customers like people
Bringing all of these concepts together, it becomes clear that creating real relationships with your customers means building an engagement strategy marked by continuity, connection, scalability, and understanding.
It’s about treating customers like human beings to be cared for rather than problems to be quickly addressed. It’s about providing holistic engagement rather than a hodgepodge of unrelated experiences.
Brands that understand these lessons will be well-positioned to benefit not only their bottom lines, but also the customers they serve. It’s a win-win for both sides of the conversation.