The True Business Value of Conversation

Charles Heunemann, VP and Managing Director for Natterbox explains the importance of conversation, and how it affects retailers and CX.

Mark Twain, one of the world’s most celebrated communicators, once lamented that people were so focused on the message they wanted to deliver, talking at and over each other, instead of listening and sharing different ideas, creating genuine connections. He advocated “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other so that we can have some conversation.”

Even though Twain passed away over 100 years ago, his advice has never been more relevant, especially considering how businesses communicate with their customers in today’s marketplace. More and more we see businesses investing large amounts of time and resources into improving
their digital customer experience. Most commentary about the customer experience concentrates heavily on digital online experiences, on issues like how long it takes a website to load, how easy and intuitive the site is to navigate, how many clicks it takes for the customer to find what they are looking for and how personalised they can make their digital journey.

Businesses like to have an aerial view of the customer path-to-purchase, monitoring not just how the customer interacts with your website but other digital channels.

However, one major communication channel often tends to be overlooked in the customer’s experience: what they do when they pick up the phone. While your company’s contact centre may not strictly be a “digital channel” a study by Google found that since the mass adoption of mobile phones calls to businesses have significantly increased and more than 60 per cent of mobile users call a business when they reach the purchase phase of the buying cycle.

With nearly 90 per cent of businesses claiming that they compete primarily on the basis of customer experience, this presents a huge opportunity for your business to give your customers the extra value and enhanced overall customer experience that they want.

While consumers may be happy to perform simple tasks using online chats, apps, emails and text messages when it comes to major purchasing decisions or complex or high-value, considered purchases like travel, financial purchases or high-value items, people still want to speak to a person.

Why? According to the study, the two main reasons people still prefer to speak to someone on the phone is because they want an immediate answer to their question and because they simply wanted to talk to a real person.

This is great news for businesses as these phone conversations are 10-15 times more likely to generate a successful sale or follow-up activity than online form submissions or emails. With a statistic like that, it’s hard to ignore the importance of a great over-the-phone experience,
especially for high-value considered purchases. In cases such as these consumers typically reach out to a brand via the phone after conducting their own preliminary research online. Traditionally, as soon as a customer picks up the phone or walks into a store the customer journey mapping stops as these interactions are technically “offline” and therefore makes it difficult for businesses to place a value on these interactions.

This lack of visibility means that businesses often neglect the customer experience in these channels which collectively can generate more than $1 trillion in commerce. High-end fashion label Gucci is starting to harness the customers’ desire for human interaction, recently announcing they will open six call centres globally, employing more than 500 people to connect with smartphone-addicted millennials who are looking to discuss the latest Gucci handbag or pair of trainers with the brand before committing to their final purchase.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the Gucci call centres is that call centre staff are actively encouraged to speak with the caller for as long as they want and are under no pressure to stick to limited call times or churn through callers, showcasing how much value Gucci place on the conversations that they have with their customers, especially given the high-value purchase that their clients are making.

Despite all the hype surrounding the online customer experience, there is mounting evidence that consumers are becoming more resistant to being ‘pushed’ online and still prefer to speak to a real person. Over the phone, they can resolve issues and have questions answered much faster and with greater accuracy and confidence than seeking the same answers online. While the trend for communicating through online channels will undoubtedly continue to grow it is essential that businesses, especially those that sell high-value products or services do not ignore the vast amount of value that they can gain and provide for their customers simply by speaking to them.

As Noble-prize winning playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “the single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” For all the incredible technology we now have that helps us communicate on different platforms and channels, with people in every corner of the
globe, a one-to-one conversation is often more meaningful, memorable, and creates the deepest connection and greatest value.

Charles Heunemann is the VP and Managing Director for Natterbox Limited in APAC, with over 30 years of experience in the IT sector including 15 years in IT security. Leading Natterbox Cloud Voice provider in Asia Pacific Operations, he is at the forefront of knowledge on the effects of the Internet on modern workplace practices, with expertise cited in Australia and Internationally.