Relationships matter in driving businesses forward and one way to nurture relationships is through online conversations. But what are the best strategies to have relevant and authentic online conversations with customers and potential customers? To discuss the topic, “Marketing, Demystified” Host Jenn Mancusi was joined by Brooke Sellas, founder and CEO at B Squared Media, and an expert in online conversations.
This topic is especially important today as social media networks are constantly evolving. Additionally, the way people interact online is also constantly evolving. Expectations change of brands responding and sharing valuable content along the way.
On this episode, Brooke and Jenn discuss:
- When we say conversations online what all falls into that category?
- What are some best practices for businesses to build authentic connections and foster engagement?
- What types of exchanges tend to drive the most business value?
- What are some mistakes companies commonly make?
- How important is it for company leaders and executives to participate?
- What emerging technologies or platforms show the most promise?
To an extent, consumers now expect to be able to converse with brands online, which can take several different forms, including social media, chatbots and other customer support channels.
Customer conversations are a critical part of doing business today. With the rise of social media and other online platforms, customers expect to be able to engage with brands whenever and wherever they want. Handling these conversations well can lead to increased customer loyalty, new sales opportunities, and valuable insights to improve your business. Here are some tips – largely based on our podcast episode with Brooke Sellas – on how to leverage customer conversations online to drive business growth.
Define What Counts as a Customer Conversation Online
Online conversations encompass any engagement between a customer and your business that happens through a digital channel. This includes:
- Social media platforms like X, Facebook, Instagram
- Messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger
- Live chat on your website
- Review sites
- Chatbots or automated messaging
The key is that these conversations happen online, rather than in-person or over the phone. Be aware of all the platforms and formats where your customers may try to engage with you.
Audit Your Current Conversations
Before optimizing your customer conversations, first understand what’s currently happening. Conduct an audit of the conversations on your social media profiles, website chat, review sites, etc. Look at:
- Volume – How many conversations are happening daily/weekly/monthly? Is this increasing or decreasing?
- Platforms – On which platforms do most conversations occur?
- Types of conversations – Are they questions about products, service complaints, or other issues?
- Response times – How quickly are you responding?
Look for patterns and areas of opportunity, like platforms you’re not active on or common service issues. The audit provides baseline data to improve upon.
Set Up Routing for Bots vs Humans
Customers often get frustrated with automated bots when they have an urgent or complex issue. Set up your conversational systems so bots handle common FAQs, while humans take the more complicated, urgent inquiries.
Program bots to respond to frequently asked questions like store hours, directions, shipping times, etc. Make sure bots have an option to be routed to a human representative immediately. If no humans are available (like overnight), configure the bot to politely explain when someone will respond. Set expectations on response times and meet them – if you say within 24 hours, respond within 24 hours.
Listen Actively to Understand Needs
When conversing directly with customers, resist the urge to sell and listen instead. Identify their core needs or pain points through active listening.
- Ask probing questions and avoid talking about yourself.
- Paraphrase what they said to ensure you understand properly.
- Show empathy for their situation rather than getting defensive.
This builds a relationship and trust, while also giving you insights into ways your business can improve.
Provide Solutions, Not Just Sales Pitches
Once you understand a customer’s needs, provide help, whether that involves your business or not. If you can’t help directly, point them in the right direction. Offer advice based on their needs, not what you hope to sell them. If appropriate, explain how your products or services can solve their problems. Follow up later when the timing may be better to discuss your offerings.
This consultative approach shows customers you care, making them more receptive to your outreach when the time is right.
Turn Conversations Into Quantifiable Business
To prove the value of customer conversations, tie them directly to business results. Some ways to do this:
- Track sales that stem from interactions – use UTM codes or unique promo codes.
- Log closed/lost deals connected to conversations.
- Calculate the customer lifetime value from new business won.
- Note feedback that led to product improvements.
- Monitor brand sentiment changes after outreach.
Quantifying results provides justification for more resources to manage customer conversations. It also helps guide strategy, showing what works.
Involve Leadership in Monitoring Conversations
Executives staying abreast of customer conversations, both positive and negative, is vital for companies to be customer-centric.
- Review a weekly summary of key themes and example discussions.
- Share positive feedback from customers to inspire.
- Present urgent or ongoing complaints they should address.
- Loop in company leaders to respond directly when appropriate.
This top-down involvement in conversations influences better decision making and culture.
Fix Problems Revealed Through Negative Feedback
Though difficult to receive, negative feedback presents an opportunity to improve. Loop in leadership and take action to address systemic issues revealed through conversations.
Sophisticated AI tools can help uncover insights from customer conversations that humans alone may miss.
Customer expectations for conversing with businesses online continues to rise. Combined with diminishing third-party data, the brands that focus on first-party relationships will have an edge. Use these tips to enhance your approach to customer conversations across platforms. With the right strategy, these digital touchpoints can become invaluable assets that fuel business growth.