Enter the Era of the Conversational Brand

Brands are developing direct, 1:1 messaging relationships with customers to forge new powerful experiences

Time to tear down the “Digital Fortress”

For the past 30 years, practically all brands have built what T-Mobile’s Robert Gary calls the “Digital Fortress.” You know, the annoying Interactive Voice Recognition inserted inside the 1–800 number, self-service tools on the website (whether it be for buying something or just getting help), or even the good ol’ email us form on the contact page and other archaic methods.

What this has done is built a moat around your company that essentially says “we’re scared to talk to you, because it costs us too much to do so,” and that in turn, has eroded consumer confidence and satisfaction with your brand.

Here are some startling, and even comical, insights to drive home just how bad the customer experience is for most brands:

  • We spend 43 days in a lifetime on hold with brands. “Your call is important to us, please hold for the next available agent.” 23 minutes later…
  • 39% of people would rather clean a toilet than talk to the IVR. “Press 1 for billing, Press 2 for sales…” Meanwhile we just hit ‘0’ seventeen times or yell “representative” until we get to a live agent.
  • Brands outsource customer service labor to offshore markets to the lowest bidder to only drag Customer Satisfaction and NPS scores through the mud. “You’re not understanding me! Let me talk to your manager!”

Top Articles on How Businesses are using Bots:

1. Is Chatbot a synonym for great Customer Experience?

2. Five Inspirational Startups Using AI and Chatbot Technology

3. How Businesses are Winning with Chatbots & Ai

4. Chatbot Conference in San Francisco

  • eCommerce has fundamentally failed. Less than 15% of all commerce is digital, and in the US, Amazon owns half of that share. Consumers are more comfortable buying things when their questions can be addressed. “Do these shoes run narrow? What are the best running sneakers for marathons? Is shipping free? What is your return policy?”
  • The majority of brand apps get buried on consumers’ phones and are only relevant and efficient when they’re kept up to date. “Ok, it’s nice that I can order my latte with this app, but can I have it at just the right temperature and just the amount of milk that I like?”
  • Web Chat forces consumers to expect service on the brand’s time, not the customers. Forget about trying to multitask during a web chat session. “Are you still there? Your session has ended. Goodbye.” Noooooo, I have to start all over again!
  • Email has lost its luster and effectiveness. “Enter your email for 20% off your first order.” What happens? The first email that comes from the brand, you immediately click ‘unsubscribe.’ And come on, how frustrated do you get when you have to send off your question or complaint into a black hole that takes three days to get a response?
  • Self-service web pages lead to 70% of phone calls into your contact center. “I just have a simple question. Why can’t I just type it in and you send me a response so I can get back to what it was I was doing, rather than hunt down what I need or wait on hold for 20 minutes.”
  • Social media public feeds are getting toxic, untrustworthy and expensive. “We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed.” Lush

All of this leaves your brand still guessing, what do our customers really want from us?

Birth of the conversational brand

The conversational brand believes in becoming an intent-driven business, where fully understanding and fulfilling on every consumers’ wants and needs is the new appropriate unit of measurement for business success.

Brands do this by subscribing to the notion that they should embrace having a conversation with customers…all of them…on their time…on their terms, and support that at scale by leveraging a powerful combination of AI, automation, talented human beings, deep integration into backend systems and a new operational model built around asynchronous communication.

The business case for becoming a conversational brand

In our personal lives, we’re sending 100 billion messages on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram everyday, and 7.2 trillion texts were sent last year alone.

But nearly all brands aren’t meeting consumers here.

“Over 60% of millennials say they’d like to communicate with brands via text messaging.”

It should be this easy for them — message your brand what they want, and like magic, they get it!

To enable this reality, it takes rethinking your digital ecosystem. The “new digital” is now being driven by AI-powered conversational commerce. What exactly does that mean?

It allows a brand to achieve the following seven core functions:

  1. Drive personal one-to-one conversational experiences that make it easy for customers to ask questions, buy products, get help and receive service using their natural language and preferred messaging service.
  2. Shift away from archaic and expensive communication methods like analog voice calls and public-shaming on social feeds to private digital conversations that will give time back and delight customers.
  3. Allow your human team members, such as your best contact center agents who already know how to have good conversations with customers today, to become assets in working along side automation and AI to scale the personalized brand experience.
  4. Integrate deeply and securely into your backend systems (CRM, billing, payments, etc) so that you can deliver a hyper-personalized and enriching customer experience.
  5. Build, deploy and manage to all available conversational consumer channels from a single source.
  6. Become a personal contact in your customers’ smartphone, right next to the same conversations with their friends and family.
  7. Build a true voice of your customer, because through messaging, it will be very easy for them to tell you exactly what they want.

The net result of this shift is stronger operational efficiency, happier customers, improved sales and loyalty, delighted employees, richer business intelligence and lowered operating expense.

The four pillars of a conversational brand are:

  1. Conversational ordering — Reduce the friction to buy something from your brand by meeting your customers where they are.
  2. Conversational care — Give time back to your customers when they have questions or seek help.
  3. Conversational marketing — Improve your ad spend by driving marketing to conversational channels, or have conversations right inside the ads themselves.
  4. Conversational teams — Why should your customers have all the fun? Make internal communication between employees just as easy and secure.

Going conversational as a brand is a transformation, it’s not a simple product or solution that can be delivered by just any provider. It doesn’t have to be a major challenge, but does require an executive sponsor who will act as a “mobilizer” of change across the organization — Digital/Customer Experience, Contact Center, Marketing and IT.

To simplify the path forward, it looks something like this seven step process:

  1. Learn from peers who have already embarked on this journey
  2. Partner well with a market leader
  3. Share the right data with that partner
  4. Build a business case together, identifying at least three immediate use cases on where to start
  5. Educate and mobilize your leadership with the partner’s assistance
  6. Define compelling outcomes that align to your brand’s ‘North Star’ strategic initiatives
  7. Develop a results-oriented commercial model that helps reduce risk and allows you to move fast

It’s time to step up and embark on this journey now. Your career will thank you later!

Sources: Statistica, Internet Retailer, Forbes, TechCrunch, LivePerson data

I sit on the Enterprise Strategic Account Acquisition team with leading global conversational commerce company, LivePerson (NASDAQ: LPSN).

I work with the world’s largest brands to implement a best-of-breed technology stack that will transform the customer experience to digital messaging, leveraging bots, AI and a proven operational blueprint. Follow me on Twitter and read more about LivePerson news here.

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Enter the Era of the Conversational Brand was originally published in Chatbots Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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