Customers have high demands for businesses, expecting personalized service across every touchpoint with a brand regardless of channel, and online interactions are no exception. Businesses of all sizes will continue to be confronted with intense pressure to not only digitize their offerings, but to do so at scale while also maintaining the same level of personal connection that customers would expect with a brick-and-mortar experience.
So how do brands extend the fun and engaging encounters that happen when two people are face-to-face, if most of their interactions with customers are now happening online? The key is focusing on conversation — talking the way people talk to each other — regardless of channel. Conversational technology is an emerging and powerful field that is helping brands create scalable and authentic online customer experiences, bringing humanity to digital interactions. When used well – and combined with people-friendly design – conversational technology delivers data and analytics that companies can leverage to further personalize their customer experience and serve their user base, which in turn can spur growth and enhance loyalty.
However, this is still an area where many brands are falling short. Most of us have accepted that interactions with brands will feel far from human and won’t provide much value. But with technology making it easier than ever to offer more human experiences online, brands have the opportunity to revive the health of their audience engagement — if they notice the symptoms of an ailing approach. It might be difficult to diagnose, but there are a few tell-tale signs that your online experience needs to be more engaging, more inspiring and more people-friendly.
Sign #1: Your Audience Isn’t Engaging With Your Brand
Today, as brands navigate constant uncertainty and change, staying in touch with their customers’ needs and preferences is key to unlocking opportunities for growth. But it doesn’t take a large audience to move the needle — just a highly-engaged one.
According to a 2022 survey from Gartner, 71 percent of B2C and 86 percent of B2B customers expect companies to be well informed about their interests during an interaction. Brands that fail to meet those expectations stand to lose ground quickly.
Online interactions need to be thoughtfully designed to bring customers in and keep them there. By capturing the experience of a conversation with a friend, companies can utilize conversational technology in the form of chatbots, surveys, quizzes and more to gather useful data, and power a more personalized and engaging customer experience.
Sign #2: You’re Not Getting Useful Insight From Your Data
When sharing information, customers want to feel like they’re getting something of value in return. Too often, they’re being asked to fill out what amounts to an online version of the same old paperwork that’s been boring people for decades, with nothing new to make it an engaging, interesting digital experience. If you find that your data is bad, it could be because the experience is stale, static, and cumbersome — and respondents just don’t think it’s worth suffering through. The focus should be on providing a give-and-take experience through beautiful, brand-able, conversational interactions that provide value to the customer in the form of not only a delightful interface, but an exchange of information they can use, such as personalized recommendations based on what they share during the conversation.
For example, Borrowell, an online lending marketplace, launched a financial personality quiz to provide their customers with the most personalized content and finance tips. The company was not only able to provide a lighthearted approach to financial investing for their customers, but was also able to glean important customer data that would further inform online interactions moving forward. What if, for example, the survey uncovered the fact that their customers were not well versed in 401K options? In that case, Borrowell could proactively send communications to customers informing them of basic investing tips and options, giving their audience valuable recommendations based entirely on responses to the financial personality quiz, which felt much more like a chat with a buddy than an outdated intake form with an institutional advisor. By approaching this interaction with humanity, it was elevated from one-sided data collection to a mutually-beneficial dialogue.
Sign #3: Customers Aren’t Coming Back
Retention is about providing value, building affinity, and nurturing relationships. According to a Salesforce report, 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. If your customers don’t feel connected to your brand on an individual level, they won’t come back.
While this happens over time, much like the experience you have when meeting a person for the first time, if a business fails to make a positive first impression, it has likely lost its chance at turning that interaction into a long-term relationship. For example, did you bombard them with a long list of questions right off the bat? Bringing humanity to online experiences is all about understanding how human interactions work — a conversation between people typically unfolds one question at a time, with each side getting more value and context as it progresses.
Companies need to reassess customer touchpoints through that lens: Are you offering interactions that are personable, thoughtful, and conversational? Those are the experiences that bring customers in and keep them around.
Creating Memorable Customer Interactions
Like in-person conversations, authenticity and empathy create trust, which in turn leads to deeper insights. This zero-party data (data that a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand) is much more powerful than data that can be bought or unknowingly extracted. When customers tell the companies they love exactly what they want – rather than brands having to piece together assumptions based on disparate data points – business leaders are better prepared to not only deliver a more tailored customer experience, but also to navigate potential disruptions with agility and confidence, knowing that they have the best data informing their next step.
When relying on technology, it’s easy to lose sight of what makes us connect as humans. If used wisely, with a focus on treating people like people, brands can find new ways to build durable connections online. Applying that same concept to online interactions with customers can ultimately result in higher engagement, more valuable data and increased brand loyalty. With a human-centric approach to customer engagement, brands are able to grow their customer relationships in both the short and long term, ensuring that they don’t just survive, but thrive.