Posts

Take Your Customer Support from ‘Talking At’ to ‘Listening To’

By Björn Gülsdorff, Chief Business Development Officer

Once upon a time ‘market’ was a noun, denoting the place where people got together and negotiated public affairs. In some markets, like the Forum Romanum, history was made. Then, ‘market’ also became a verb. Now marketing basically means talking at people, often raising the level of volume, colours, and wordings whilst lowering niveau. 😊

Surely, to say such a thing is utterly unfair to many marketeers. Yet, when it comes to customer service, I uphold the claim that the communication is often rather unidirectional, and in the wrong direction on top of that. Countless the websites where FAQs are not “frequently asked questions” but rather “answers we’d like to give”. Or where obviously someone has created a user journey for me. Frankly, nobody needs to design that. I know pretty well where I want to go, thank you.

What I do want on my journey, is to have road bumps removed, gaps bridged, and connections optimised. If customer service was an airport, I don’t want the lounge refurbished; I want another fast lane and quick boarding.

I am aware that people are different and that the same person has different needs at different times. Therefore, there is not the one journey for all and clearing the path is not easy.

That’s where two-sided conversations, aka dialogues, kick in. Customer service is about listening as well as acknowledging that each experience will be unique. Virtual agents can play a role in that as they come with a free text input field. So even when customers are self-serving, they don’t need to guess the one correct search term or scroll through a list of FAQs someone else has selected.

When it comes to creating this dialogue with customers, there are good and not so good ways to start.Things like expectation management, consistency, focus, and coverage make a big difference. It also requires courage (customers will speak their mind!) and the will to act.

It may be an inconvenient truth, but customer service with a virtual agent (or any other tool for that matter) is not a one-off thing. Good customer service means listening to your customers and improving constantly, be it the NLP (natural language processing), answers in the virtual agent, your processes, your services, or your products. In customer service, the journey to design is your way to become a better and more successful company.

Whether you’re ready to add a virtual agent to your customer service plan for the first time or have realised that your current tool isn’t creating a helpful dialogue with customers, I recommend this whitepaper for tips from conversational AI experts.

Attention Marketers: You Could Learn Something from Your Customer Support Colleagues

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

“The data is clear: B2B buyers prefer do-it-yourself options for researching products and services prior to purchase. By a factor of three to one, B2B buyers want to self-educate rather than talk to sales representatives to learn about your offerings. The vast majority of B2B buyers will eventually connect with sales when necessary – they just want to be left alone while they do their research.” *

It’s certainly no secret that today’s customers are increasingly turning to low-friction, low-effort self-service options for information and support. But what about B2B buyers? In their recent report How Self-Service Research Changes B2B Marketing, Forrester Research points out that the self-service behaviours we’ve learned as digital consumers are translating over to the approach B2B buyers are taking to make their purchasing decisions. When surveyed, 59% of B2B buyers agreed that they prefer their primary source of information to be their own online research rather than interacting with a sales representative.

For marketers who have been religiously creating and sharing educational content for marketing and advertising campaigns, this may not entirely come as a surprise. Yet simply having published this content doesn’t necessarily mean B2B buyers can find the information they need to move them towards a purchasing decision. This is where Forrester suggests that marketers can learn something from their customer support colleagues. As they point out in this report, customer support professionals have been ‘enabling self-service for years and are committed to facilitating knowledge transfer by removing every source of friction from the customer journey.’ B2B marketers must do the same for their buyers.

Forrester highlights three categories of self-service customer support tools that can be directly applied to B2B self-service research: organic search, contextual help/FAQs and virtual assistants. When implemented properly, these self-service solutions can benefit B2B marketers by helping them to retain more prospects, create self-qualified leads and gain a meaningful advantage over their competitors.

As a virtual assistant and contextual help/FAQs vendor mentioned in this report, we at Creative Virtual see huge potential for smart self-service solutions in both B2B and B2C marketing. Virtual agents not only help buyers find the relevant content and information they seek, but also engage them in a natural language conversation and can guide them through their research step-by-step. Our V-Person™ virtual agent solution is designed to be complementary to the systems and processes already in place, sit on top of existing infrastructure and integrate with other software and tools such as databases, site search and live chat. This means B2B marketers can quickly deploy a self-service research solution without lengthy or expensive development projects.

Forrester’s How Self-Service Research Changes B2B Marketing is available to download from Creative Virtual for a limited time, so be sure to request your copy of the full report.

After reading the report, be sure to check out our educational resources and chat with Creative Virtual’s virtual assistant, Quark.

 

* How Self-Service Research Changes B2B Marketing, Forrester Research, Inc., 13 May 2016