We need to talk…customer engagement

Good communication and customers are inseparable; you cannot have the latter without the former.

Developing relationships with your customers means understanding their needs and why indeed, they even sought you out in the first place; what of your awareness campaign drew them to you? But it’s no use if all they do is hover on your doorstep, unsure of whether or not to venture further, to actually make their mind up about your product, to end the consideration process of the customer journey and actually execute the call to action (CTA).

Of all the steps on the customer journey, the CTA is possibly the most essential part. It could be the difference between losing a potential customer and making a sale or conversion, simply through the correct use of an appealing word, phrase, or sentence that nudges the prospect to take further action. It all depends on if they see you as the solution to their pain point, whether or not they feel that you have listened to them.

When the interaction is not on a 1-to-1 basis, where you can chat with them directly, it can be tough to work out where someone is in their consideration process, without blatantly asking them. However, through consistent engagement you can shorten your funnel and make the conversion process seamless.

Think about it: if you want someone to come inside your Aladdin’s Cave of wonders, you ask them to, right? You engage? Well, a call to action is similar.

Challenge is, however, that by the time the customer (returning, or potentially new) has decided to grace your doorstep, they have conducted research that would make the designers of the Large Hadron Collider proud, so your CTAs must be clear, enticing, informative, alluring and speak directly to the user — in the most persuasive way possible. It is not a good tactic to talk at them, however, rather involve them in a conversation where you can assess what they are looking for, what a solution could be.

Consider how you are viewed by them…

So, what’s making them hesitate?

Take a look at your shop, whether brick and mortar or online. ‘Walk’ through your front door, what is the first thing your customers see, and does it really show that you respect them, they are welcome, and you are not only after their cash? How inviting is their experience going to be?

High quality images can be a good way to back your call to action as people process images faster than words, including visual cues pointing them towards your offer. For example, customers will automatically follow the gaze of where people in the image are pointing or looking. Arrows also work in this instance to direct them to the CTA. This usually takes the form of a button in a prominent spot on your webpage.

The best call to action phrases are brief and use strong verbs with an implied sense of urgency. Weaker words like ‘click here’ don’t have as an effective outcome as ‘Book your next holiday now’, ‘Take the opportunity NOW!’ which elicit a more positive outcome as they address the reader directly, using specific words that aren’t vague and speak to the desired outcome. You need to rely on the customer’s FOMO component: the Fear Of Missing Out…

Also consider if the images on your website represent your true customer-base and demographic, or are they biased in any way?

Call centres on the other hand, are another game entirely, as this is where the human interaction element must shine. When it comes to agents getting customers over the line, well, the best CTAs are those that are natural and do not use scripts. A sense of authenticity works here. Do you actually have an understanding of your customers, do you know their names, their interests, their challenges, their requirements? This is hardly possible or realistic, but with a good customer relationship management (CRM) system in place, you can have a database of customer information that will make the interaction more personalised, no matter how large the customer base.

Customer service 101: Always ask after their well-being and use their names while talking with them — after asking them if you may, of course. (Nothing worse than some upstart Gen-Z calling a Silverback by their first name… Enough to make Grandma rattle her walking stick in irritation.) But on no condition appear condescending or patronising, because Grandma will really rap you over you knuckles with that knobbed walking stick!

Great agent training will ensure that the agents know their stuff, and this is when they can prove that your products are better than those offered by competitors as they regale the clients with the characteristics that set your product ahead of the field. And while you don’t want to push your product with hard sell, what you don’t want either is ‘dead air’ when you are chatting to a customer:

Dead air is an unintended period of silence that interrupts a broadcast during which no audio or video program material is transmitted.’ — Wikipedia.

You know that awkward silence? Well, you don’t want that; keep initiating further conversation.

If agents are half their worth, they’ll be able to assess the emotional state of the customer, so this is a time to act on emotions — but be subtle, considerate and authentic.

(However, if they are standing on the ledge of a high-rise, it is time to reconsider your sales patter. Although, this could also be a great time to sell them a parachute…

I did mention subtle, didn’t I?)

In a world that is so ‘connected’, interacting through a computer and mobile device has in reality, distanced us all. We all long for a real connection.

Make the move and connect really, authentically, with your customer base. Get to know them, make them feel heard and act on suggestions if they are valid. We can all do with improving our offerings and services. Besides, it’s almost free market research when a customer offers up a suggestion for improvement!

When customers feel respected and understood, it’ll not take them long to consider taking up your offer, using your services and buying your products, and move from potential to converted.

Your parachute sales, however, may go down.

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