“Hello, can you hear me?”
If the singer, Adele worked in online marketing, she’d be just as famous for her customer service insights. Website visitors today expect 2-way conversations more than ever before. Your customers are looking for answers to their questions RIGHT NOW.
No, they won’t email you; it might take hours (or even days) to get a response. No, they won’t fill out your form; that’s so 2015.
No, they won’t phone you; phone calls are falling out of fashion, especially with younger people. So, what’s a marketer to do?
During the last 20 years, websites have moved from boring internet brochures, to interactive learning experiences, to customer service gateways with real-time assistance. As technology has evolved and attention spans have shortened, live chat, chatbots, and fancy conversational marketing tools rose to the challenge. Each has their own place and advantages. But first, let’s back up and look at where chat fits into the digital sales funnel.
Capturing Leads the Old Way
From a buyer’s perspective, business-to-business (B2B) lead generation is classically built on a long, painful path to landing a sale. Even in business-to-commerce (B2C), platforms where customer service is generally a level above, not many companies have adopted the full potential of conversational marketing.
Take a look at the classic B2B sales funnel:
What is Conversational Marketing?
Conversational marketing is about fast, almost-real-life, conversations.
The best customer experiences are quick, polite, and expert. Whether it’s for sales or existing customer service, people want the same fundamental things covered. Quick, polite, and expert are unchanging qualities to aim for in the world of online customer communications. Web forms, email, social media, and webinars all fail on one or more of these qualities. Conversational marketing may be the first digital channel to approach the best qualities of real-life chats.
The Basics of Live Chat
Live chat is a technology that is overlaid on your website to engage website visitors as they explore your website. In passive mode, you wait until a website visitor clicks “Chat with us!” or a similar button to start a chat session. If your employees are actively monitoring website visitors, they might choose to actively start a conversation. There are many chat software companies, out there. We’ve personally had good experience with Live Chat Inc.
Live chat offers some great benefits, such as instant service and high customer satisfaction. It also has some pitfalls. It often relies on humans, and humans make mistakes. Also, your business’ live chat is only as good as the humans behind it. If you don’t have good people powering your chats, customers quickly get frustrated.
Robots Can Do That Too!
When there’s a predictable pattern, a system to follow, and processes to scale, automation via ‘robots’ is not far behind. Live chat in its basic form is limited by human resources. However, organizations may not have the means to staff enough operators to support their customer base. That’s where chatbots come into play.
Chatbots don’t eat, sleep, or chat around the water cooler. They can also hold thousands of simultaneous conversations without breaking a virtual sweat. They can greet every website visitor and initiate conversations. When things get too difficult for your ‘bot buddy,’ the bot can hand off the conversation to a real person.
The benefits of chatbots are numerous. You won’t leave customers stranded without support. They are easy to set up. You can customize chatbots to play by the rules of your company. If implemented correctly, chatbots can effectively replace a real person for some customer support conversations. However, not all bots are created equal. A poorly executed chatbot is even more painful for your customers than talking with an untrained human operator.
Artificial intelligence-powered chatbots can’t entirely replace humans. Complicated and intricate interactions still require human navigation. If you don’t have humans waiting to pick up where your chatbots leave off, customers will rave about your business in all the wrong ways.
The future is now
Advanced bots can follow “play books” that you can customize to fit your company’s sales and customer service paths. Drift’s tools are pushing the envelope of conversational marketing. It blurs the lines between what a robot can do and what a human should do.
Talk About Win-Win
A quick Google search will bring up countless case studies of how live chat and conversational marketing is changing the landscape of digital marketing. Although the specifics differ, the outcomes are similar: more prospects engaged, better lead generation, quicker conversions into customers, increased revenue. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by technology, but don’t lose the forest through trees. Like every other successful marketing tactic, it’s really about putting your customer first. We all win when that happens.
James Shaw is the CEO/Creative Director at Twin Creek Media, responsible for marketing strategy and management of campaigns across Canada and the USA.