The age of customer experience is entering a new dimension: Emotion is the new Brand.
Creating emotional connections across the entire customer journey is more critical than ever – especially for written communications. Yet many companies struggle with bridging that gap. Here we look at three common challenges businesses face in communicating with customers, and best practices that can help you come out ahead.
#1 – Make it a conversation, not just words
Most of us learned our writing skills years ago in school, where we were encouraged to believe that to sound “professional”, business communications must be formal and authoritative. What they didn’t teach us is that people do business with people they like. As a result, many customer communications come across as condescending or unapproachable, and often get ignored.
If you want to connect emotionally with customers, you need to communicate with an appealing conversational tone and language. Sure, it’s tougher in writing — your audience can’t hear warmth in your voice or see your smile and other friendly non-verbal cues. But that doesn’t mean those qualities can’t shine through. It takes empathy, and practice.
Years ago, a top 5 bank launched an enterprise-wide customer experience initiative to make their communications more clear, friendly, and conversational. It was an uphill climb for them to change entrenched ways. Our Beyond the Arc team has been pivotal in helping them communicate better with customers. In working with 30+ lines of business on 20,000+ deliverables across the bank, the content varied but the core challenge was often the same. It always came down to customer empathy — thinking about what matters most to customers and communicating in a simple, jargon-free way to make business letters feel more like trusted conversations.
#2 – Make it about them, not you
Let’s face it, marketing is about the power of persuasion. But too often, companies invest lots of words trying to persuade customers about products and services. Yes, it’s important to inform and educate, but that’s rarely what sways people.
We are creatures of emotion. We identify with practical needs, but we are persuaded by feelings. Marketing messages that tap into our desire to feel more confident, relaxed, empowered, or valued tend to resonate more deeply.
Messaging and experiences that spark positive emotions often influence our decisions to pursue a purchase or connection with a business.
It’s not enough to sprinkle in feel-good snippets after you’ve hammered on about your offerings. You need to tell people upfront what’s in it for them. Tell them how they’ll benefit, have a more successful business or better quality of life. Putting this compelling persuasion first in your messages is what we call “leading with the win.” In our customer communications workshops, we help companies shift their perspective and practice this technique on their own real-world customer letters and emails.
#3 – Make it easy on mobile
Marketing emails can often tell a story with just a catchy headline and images, but customer service communications typically need more meat. But they often end up lengthy and dense to explain options, functionality, instructions or insights. That’s challenging for customers to read and understand in print or on a computer, but it can be torture on a phone.
It’s vital to adapt your writing style in these important communications because up to 75% of consumers check email on their smartphone. That means you need to say more with less, and do it in engaging ways. You want to encourage customers to read your emails and take action as needed – because that’s what the business needs. And you want to help customers feel comfortable and confident – because that’s what they need.
To increase the effectiveness of customer service emails, we help clients simplify messaging with concise, plain language and easy-to-read visual layouts that help key takeaways stand out. Creating multiple variations for nuanced segments has also helped companies test different approaches to improve open rates and customer follow-through.
Your digital customer communications are often your most immediate touch point, so it’s well worth the effort to evolve beyond just meeting practical needs. Creating communications that inspire emotional connections to your business can be a powerful way to improve customer retention and earn loyalty.