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Brands Offer Conversations To Deepen Their Customer Relationships

June 12, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_161513456 Portrait of beautiful customer service representative

Most people want the fastest resolution possible when speaking to a customer service representative, particularly if they’ve called under duress because something hasn’t gone right. But, during coronavirus, many brands saw their call volume go up, finding that consumers were more anxious than usual and needed reassurance from human voices. Brands that can offer welcome and helpful human conversation may be able to develop lasting trust with their customers, but there is still a place for automated interactions and content marketing that reaches customers before they reach for the phone.

Consumers Trust Brands That Offer Human Contact

Although most consumers are accustomed to interacting with brands entirely digitally, there is a loss of trust if brands don’t offer some form of human contact. According to a Harris poll conducted with Forbes, “When a brand doesn't offer the option for human interaction, more than half of consumers (52%) feel frustrated, and nearly one in five (18%) feel angry. Meanwhile, just 16% say they enjoy it [the completely digital interaction].” Even for digital brands, communication that is easy and immediate, especially when customers are stressed, should be part of a brand’s customer experience (CX) strategy, especially in high-touch industries like healthcare and finance. 

Healthcare And Financial Service Call Centers Need Support With Content

Conversations to resolve issues, especially during a crisis, are a necessary service for brands to offer, but lengthy conversations can overwhelm call centers. Strong content marketing, especially in healthcare and finance where customers have a lot of questions, can help funnel some questions into the answered pile and avoid an overwhelming number of lengthy calls that can compromise customer service levels over time. Well-executed content marketing is a trust-builder to begin with, so offering it as an option to get frequently answered questions and issues resolved, is not likely to erode trust -- especially if human-based customer service is offered as an option within the CX.

For complex or unique questions, like refinancing homes or concerns about retirement savings, customers typically want to skip the generic content and talk directly with a person for answers or reassurance. Brands should make clear that they have real humans available to answer tough questions, even if content is recommended for FAQs or an automated platform is leveraged to provide quick, standard responses to inbound questions.

Zappo’s Taps Into Human Connection And Personalizes Their Customer Experience

Shutterstock_1450974128 Los Angeles, California, USA - 25 June 2019: Illustrative Editorial of Zappos website homepage. Zappos logo visible on display screen.

Conversations with brands may not always be about solving problems, they can also be an innovative way to connect with consumers. During the coronavirus crisis, when many brands were struggling with sales and many people were struggling with loneliness and frustration, Zappos offered the opportunity for a chat with their “Customer Service for Anything” initiative. The unique idea deploys Zappos’ customer service team to connect with customers in a more meaningful way. An “Anything” microsite on the Zappos website explains, “We're all about delivering the best possible service experience for you. Whatever it is you may need, we are here for you.” For Zappos this includes processing and returning orders, but also helping customers locate nearby restaurants that deliver or local coronavirus testing or just offering a listening ear for anxious or bored customers who may need someone to talk to.

Zappos has always centered customer service as part of its brand identity, so leveraging that friendliness and can-do spirit is an effective way to attract new customers and encourage loyalty from existing ones.

Most Brands Need An Efficient Combo Of Human And Automated Interactions

“Automation helps brands deliver more convenient, lower-friction customer experiences, but companies need to remember that AI isn't a complete replacement for dynamic human conversation,” notes Gregg Johnson, CEO of Invoca, in a Forbes article. Brands need to understand when to deploy automation and when the human touch is the better option, while also offering answers and positive engagement with the brand at various touch points including through content on the website. A quality conversation, whether it’s spontaneous, informative or reassuring, can yield insights into consumer preferences and attitudes, offering benefits to brands long after a crisis has passed.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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