Having More Meaningful Conversations with Customers

“Go beyond merely communicating to ‘connecting’ with people.” – Jerry Bruckner

This is the era of communication. Technology has brought everyone ‘closer’ – it is no longer impossible to speak with someone across continents, while seeing their face on a screen in front of us. Distance is no longer a factor. In the world of business, it is now expected that companies will engage more frequently and have more meaningful conversations with customers. This means that companies will, when interacting with customers, display knowledge and expertise, while simultaneously remaining completely aware of what customers want and expect. This of course should not be the task or job of any particular department but rather a collaborative effort throughout the company. Engaging customers must be linked also, to the fulfilment of the strategic objectives of a company.

The business world has moved to become customer-centric and customers are ubiquitous – connected on every possible channel there is and expect the companies they associate with, to be present on these sites too.  If companies wish to have meaningful conversations with customers, they must engage with them and ‘befriend’ them on these sites. The challenge companies face is the ever increasing amounts of customer data they need to deal with and the fact that customer demands continue unabated, making it hard for them to keep pace with customers in order to enhance meaningful conversations.

The importance of better customer experiences and engagement has seen exponential growth and only those companies that can consistently provide memorable experiences and have meaningful conversations with customers, will survive and succeed. Being able to do so lets customers know that they are central to the existence of a company and as a result would be happy to choose it over any of its competitors. Conversely, ‘poor conversations’ can change the attitude of a customer completely and lead to a switch of companies, while simultaneously sharing their poor experiences with many, especially via social media. We know that the balance of power in company-customer relationships has shifted to the customer and a single instance of poor service would lead to the customer exiting for good. It has become critical to business success that companies have meaningful conversations with customers at every interaction. When customers connect, they are not looking to at merely getting an answer to a simple query – they want more, if they are remain engaged with the company and become loyal over time.

A meaningful conversation for a customer would be one where they not only receive responses to their queries, but also receive additional and value-added information that would serve to provide solutions proactively to possible problems. The conversations need to deliver on the promise of simplifying things for them and making it easier for customers to engage in business with the company. These meaningful conversations with customers would find value only when they are energized, empathetic, polite, and seek to find solutions for customers. To achieve this successfully, each time, companies must rethink and revamp their service and overall business strategies, keeping customers in the fore. The mind-set has to move from service being a single department, to the combined responsibility of each person in the company. Doing so will ensure that irrespective of who the customer connects with, they would receive top class service and information that would help them.

A meaningful conversation with customers is all about assessing their needs and expectations, understand what for them comprises quality and efficiency, and then offering genuine and unfeigned help. Such conversations, whether offline or online, gain more business, as they allow customers to understand your company better. The longer customers are kept engaged, the greater the possibility of them becoming profitable and loyal – and this complete process begins by a single effective conversation. With an increase in the number of communication channels, the number of interactions and ‘conversations’ companies have with customers has increased exponentially. Each channel and interaction would have significance, which makes the job of companies tougher. Even one failed ‘conversation’ could lead to dissatisfaction – this would be despite the fact that all the other several conversations were fruitful. It is the age of the customer – they know it and their demands have increased.

Having meaningful conversations with customers, means an understanding that these must follow a set of rules and guidelines, for them to be successful. They must begin with the intent to listen rather than the eagerness to respond. True service representatives hear similar queries and issues daily, sometimes several times in a day. However, for a customer, their problem or query is particular to them and so expect that the conversation revolve around their ‘special’ issue. If service representatives assume they know; their reaction at the start of the conversation would be to provide answers and or solutions without allowing the customer to speak. One-sided interactions do not amount to a conversation, and can easily pique the customer as it gives the impression of being interrupted and disinterest on the part of the company to give them a patient hearing.

Through intent listening, the service representatives would be a lot better equipped and confident to ask pertinent and accurate questions. This would serve to tell customers that the company is committed to them and serving them with the best. The right questions will elicit accurate answers, which would allow the company to understand customers and their needs. A two-way, effective, and problem solving interactions amount to meaningful conversations with customers, leaving them happy and more trusting of the company. It would help if the company invested in CRM systems, which would allow the service staff to have all the data related to a customer readily available and useable. Reading up on a customer’s ‘history’ with the company would make the service staff appear more engaged, knowledgeable, confident, and friendly – traits that customers appreciate greatly.

A better understanding of customers would enable the company to relate to them on a more humane and genuine level. Humanizing conversations and relationships with customers is a great way to establish a rapport and durable bond with each one. A company would be able to give customers what they want, share common interests, provide them information on what customers may be passionate about, and exhibit other such behaviours, when there is a deep and focused understanding of each customer. This would make every ‘conversation’ meaningful and value-added for customers.

Meaningful conversations with customers would begin and culminate with the customers knowing that the company is willing to invest time and resources to gain or retain their business. These conversations would cover all the aspects that would enable the customer to perceive the company’s dedication to helping them with every aspect of business and beyond too. It is not hard for customer’s to perceive genuine value versus feigned interest – the customer would respond / reciprocate in the same manner. When a company is able to please customers with every interaction across all touch-points, it would build meaningful and durable relationships with its customers. With so much competition and a sea of information, it has become even more important that a company engage in meaningful conversations with customers, in order to display why and how they are better and different from the ‘crowd’.

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