By Ritesh Varma
Effective and impactful customer communication is not just a nicety but a necessity for enterprises. And yet, many organizations fail abysmally at this basic tenet of business. This happens because organizations often resort to bulk and standard communication methods devoid of empathy, and personalized context, and lack relevance to their customers. Neglecting individual nuances invariably leads to misinterpretation, disengagement, and a sense of impersonality, eroding the intended impact and ultimately hindering effective communication and relationship-building.
Here are typical examples. We’ve all been recipients of standard messages that organizations (think banks and insurers) send out to customers:
- “Your insurance premium is due. Please pay your premium on time to avoid discontinuation. Ignore if already paid.”
- “Your loan EMI is due. Please ensure your account has adequate funds to avoid penalty.”
- “Avail a lifetime free card from XYZ Bank with no processing fees.”
- Open a zero balance account with ABC Bank today!”
While keeping customers informed is vital, often in their enthusiasm to stay “connected,” organizations sending out the above (or similar) messages fail to filter out customers who have
- already paid their insurance premium
- given a standing instruction to auto-debit the EMI from the same bank
- already hold a premium card from XYZ Bank
- already have a wealth account with ABC Bank
A bank or insurance provider may even be trying hard to up-sell or cross-sell products to a customer who is calling them out on social media for a poor experience. The overwhelming thought of customers at the receiving end of such offers is likely to be one (or all) of the below:
- They don’t care about me
- My business is not important to them
- It is a waste to continue the relationship
The Pitfalls of Traditional Communication
Individuals today are inundated with an overwhelming influx of communications through myriad channels. From emails, SMS, WhatsApp messages, physical mails, Facebook posts, and Instagram stories, businesses leave no stone unturned to reach their customers. However, for the customer, this deluge of emails and one-way messages, often not in their context, leads to frustration and communication fatigue, creating an unfortunate paradox – customers feel more disconnected despite being digitally connected.
According to research by ToleroSolutions, the top reasons why communications fail in customer service include:
- Unclear Communication: 53% percent of customers stated that unclear communication was the most significant issue preventing them from having a good customer service experience.
- Spam Surge: Customers are overwhelmed by too many sales calls, messages, emails, and notifications.
- Value Delivery: Messages should carry a ‘call to action’ that provides value to the customer, provoking a response and engagement.
- Timing Matters: Sending messages at the wrong time can lead to customers ignoring them. Organizations must consider global time differences and deliver communications at appropriate moments.
- Long-term Relationships: Customers seek long-term relationships with brands. Tailor-made campaigns for specific target groups, rewards for loyal customers, and personalized information create heartfelt connections.
The traditional approach of segmentation and mass targeting has become obsolete. To achieve a brilliant customer experience, interactions must be personalized and tailored to meet individual customer needs and preferences.
The Role of Conversational Journeys
Exceptional customer service is all about contextualizing communications, individualizing responses, and sending them empathetically to the customer on a channel they choose. When enterprises imbibe these nuances into their communication and customer service processes, elevated experiences are an automatic byproduct. It is non-negotiable to be aware of previous interactions with your customers, their challenges, and behavior, and send individualized messages if you are looking to build a sustainable and loyal customer base.
This need for contextual and unified customer engagement is crucial as organizations interact with customers throughout their lifetime across a host of Communication “Journeys.” Some examples include:
- Campaign Journey that involves branding and promotions and feature offers such as New Year promotions or new product launches.
- Remediation Journey to address conflict resolution and handling issues like chargebacks or communication bounce due to incorrect email addresses.
- Information Journey that focuses on delivering relevant updates, such as transaction notifications on credit cards.
- Persuasion Journey to up-sell or cross-sell products and services to the customer.
Amidst the deluge of these communications, the key to success lies in crafting meaningful, empathetic, and personalized interactions. Each customer interaction should hold contextual value, catering to their unique preferences and needs. Often, relying on simple, one-way communication is not effective. Organizations must view these interactions as opportunities for genuine customer conversations, extracting deeper insights and building stronger relationships from each encounter.
To elevate customer satisfaction, it is imperative to transform simple communications into engaging dialogs that lead to a logical and fulfilling outcome. By fostering concise and purposeful exchanges, businesses can deliver delightful experiences that leave customers truly satisfied. Finally, these conversations have to be analyzed for improvements.
Within the comprehensive realm of Conversation Journeys, several pivotal roles collaborate to ensure its success:
- The marketing team plays a crucial role in setting the conversation’s tone, context, and relevance, where messaging takes center stage.
- Call center executives and teams are responsible for providing appropriate and empathetic responses to every customer query.
- The IT department takes charge of setting up the necessary systems, including NLP, chatbots, and conversational AI, to enhance the effectiveness of interactions.
- The operations team is tasked with seamlessly implementing actionable derived from conversations, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.
Leveraging Conversational Insights is Key
Meaningful insights from customer conversations drive an elevated customer experience. Monitoring metrics such as productivity, response rates, and customer behavior provides valuable data for optimization. Reports on channel effectiveness, conversions, and customer satisfaction guide informed decision-making. Organizations can build stronger customer relationships, improve service, and foster loyalty by analyzing these key factors. Utilizing data-driven strategies, businesses can transform communication into personalized conversations and ultimately enhance the overall customer journey and drive positive outcomes.
For example, imagine a customer with a healthcare policy that is about to expire and needs renewal. Typically, insurance companies send reminders 60 days in advance and follow up regularly, irrespective of premium payment status. However, let’s consider a more personalized approach to this journey.
After the initial, formal email reminder 60 days before policy expiry, as the deadline approaches, the tone can shift to a more serious and consequence-oriented message, with channels transitioning from email to SMS or Whatsapp. Closer to expiry, communications can become urgent and move to push-based channels like call centers and relationship managers. This approach can be further customized to communicate with customers who:
- Paid after the second reminder – Thank them and stop sending further reminders.
- Changed their email address, and all reminders are bouncing back – Call them and ask for an alternate email address.
- Left a payment midway – Call them and check if they need assistance to complete the payment.
- Have a query or an issue – Initiate a conversation to respond to the customer appropriately.
While the communication journey of these customers started with a reminder, to ensure exceptional services, enterprises must continue the conversation based on individual context. By accumulating and analyzing data on payment history, past interactions, and social media, the company must tailor messages and share them via preferred channels instead of bombarding the customer with a standard, one-for-all message.
Crafting Exceptional Customer Service: What it Takes
Conversations guided by system alarms and triggers hold the key to delivering superior customer service. As reminders and responses unfold, the real test lies in how well exceptions are addressed and progressed. By effectively responding to system-generated triggers, organizations can create elevated and personalized experiences that leave a lasting positive impact on customers.
By harnessing digital, new-age technology such as AI/ML, enterprises can analyze customer data to tailor messages based on preferences, behaviors, and history. By dynamically adjusting content, timing, and channel, AI ensures contextual relevance, driving deeper connections and enhancing communication efficacy.
Organizations must prioritize conversations over traditional one-way messages in a world saturated with communications to deliver exceptional customer service. Personalization, empathy, and actionable insights are the building blocks of successful Conversational Journeys. By forging genuine connections with customers and viewing each interaction as a chance to connect, businesses can elevate customer service to new heights. Needless to say, embracing the art of meaningful conversations is the key to thriving in a customer-centric landscape, ensuring long-lasting customer loyalty and advocacy.
(The author is Ritesh Varma, Head of Business Solutions Group, Newgen Software, and the views expressed in this article are his own)