Actual Conversation Delivers Better Customer Experiences


I am going to be a little obvious, given the name of this blog, and you are probably going to nod in agreement.

Actual (read: unscripted) conversation with customers delivers better experiences (on both sides of the interaction), and greater results.

Then, if you are a representative of say a bank, you are going to do exactly — ready for it? — nothing different about it. You will send yet another carefully prepared "customer retention" script as a response to candid feedback and ask your customer to log into his secure account to read it.

We don't get paid to talk

When was it that we started being scared of human contact?

Much of what passes for communication has the official quality of "much to say about nothing", often never addressing the question the customer asked directly. No, at best, it is often an oblique version of getting hit over the head with a rulebook.

In their haste to be professional and above reproach, service reps are losing the one competitive advantage that could put them in the preference lead by using a very powerful technology: conversation.

Talking is often the best way to uncover interesting bits of qualitative data from your customers. It sure beats paying a third party to investigate why they stopped coming back.

Even when you have plenty of ways to eavesdrop in digital and social, the data is less rich because people (online) don't converse, they comment — big difference. We don't get paid to talk, which is why we do have a conversation problem.

Conversation helps us think together

It is one of the most evolved technologies for problem solving. It shines a light on nuance, and has the side benefit of rolling up discovery and connection into one when sprinkled with attention and sincerity.

Psychologist and MIT professor Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together, which explores our reliance on devices that can isolate us under the auspices of connection#, is looking into this issue as the topic of a new book on Reclaiming Conversation.

As Quartz reports:

Her research for the book has involved hours upon hours of talking with people about conversation as well as eavesdropping on conversations: the kind of low-grade spying that in academia is known as “ethnography,” that in journalism is known as “reporting,” and that everywhere else is known as “paying attention.”

Sometimes all a person wants is acknowledgment — starting with eye contact, answering the question directly when online. I'm afraid we are making it all way more complicated than it needs to be.

When a customer asks, "why was my setting changed to online only?" he doesn't need a 500-word response on how online is a best practice. Be sincere and say, "because it saves us money".

You can never tell when you will find a gem through conversation. You won't find it at all if you are not starting one in the first place. The time when companies could sit back and wait for the orders to come in has long passed.

All the smart technologies is the world cannot replicate the simple and powerful message of love through the act of caring.


[image by Hugh MacLeod]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.