Customer Interaction: The Complete Guide to Interactions Management

A complete guide to creating rewarding customer interactions and experiences that delight. Here’s
what you need to know and how to implement it.

The communication between business and customer is described as customer interactions. Every year, customer interactions involve more channels and higher customer expectations. While it can be tough to manage every customer inquiry, businesses can deliver great customer experience with the right strategy and the right tools. Let’s talk about what you need to know about creating rewarding customer interactions and growing your revenue in 2020.

The Complete Guide To Customer Interactions

Why are customer interactions key to
your business?

Customer Interactions Key To Your Business

Great experiences are built at every step of the customer journey. Let's take a look at some of the key moments of this journey and see how customers have the opportunity to interact with a business at various touchpoints.

  • Desire

    A desire for something that a person may not have, typically translates into a ‘need’. In order to fulfil this need, customers start looking for options that may satisfy this need. For example if someone needs a dentist, they will search for ‘dental practice near me’. This is the first step in a customer’s buying journey.

    At this exploratory stage, people are seeking answers to questions about product features, pricing, warranties, delivery times etc. Websites and business listings usually answer most of these questions. That's why it’s important to optimize for search engines.

  • Decide

    Once the customers complete their due diligence, compare all the options, a decision to buy or subscribe is made.

    At this stage, the customer is invested and is looking keenly at the interactions during the fulfilment stage. The customer needs to be reassured that his/her decision was correct. Was the staff reassuring, courteous and helpful? Was the customer kept appropriately informed throughout the process? Were their questions answered promptly? The quality of these interactions will decide the positive or negative experience that they walk away with. That’s why it’s important that businesses provide options that allow customers to get in contact with them quickly and conveniently.

  • Delight

    After the purchase, the customer gets to interact with the product/service. Apart from the experience with the purchase, customers continue to have opportunities to have continuous interactions with the company.

    When will my policy expire? How do I order an additional jar with the blender? I have accidentally ordered two pairs of shoes in the same colour. How can I exchange? How your team addresses these post purchase customer interactions will determine customer delight and loyalty. Businesses can do this by sending customer surveys after different interactions.

    Each time your business interacts with a customer, you want to provide a great experience to establish a connection and build a meaningful long term relationship.

Customer interactions and customer
experience: How are they linked?

The expectations that the customers have with a brand are continuously changing. They now demand more attention, seek more professionalism and expect speed and convenience at all times. With the bar being continuously raised, businesses can no longer take customers for granted. They need to provide a great experience at each customer touchpoint to retain their business. With the ever growing competition, customers are more than happy to make a switch if their expectations are not met.

How the businesses interact with their customers and prospects holds the key to providing better customer experience. Here are some logical outcomes of having quality customer interactions:

  • Build customer loyalty

    Customers want to know that the business appreciates them. Their queries are answered promptly regardless of what channel they use to interact. The business proactively reaches out to ensure customer happiness. For example: A veterinary clinic sends a follow up text a couple of days after an appointment enquiring if the health issues of the pet are resolved.

  • Repeat business

    When a customer is made to feel important, they reward the business with their loyalty and even repeat business. Repeat business not only helps you grow your revenue but also opens the doors for upsell or cross-sell.

  • Revenue growth

    83% of consumers are willing to refer after a positive experience. And 84% of consumers trust the recommendations of others over other forms of marketing. Referrals from happy customers go a long way in boosting your revenue.

Customer interaction channels

Customer interaction channels are all the ways in which your customers can reach your business. These channels are environments where customer touchpoints occur - and hence the opportunity to create stellar customer experiences. Since your customers could be reaching out to you via any channel, it is important to make sure you are there to support them where they are. Here are some of the most common customer interaction channels.

  • Phone CallsPhone calls
    Yes phones may feel “so yesterday,” but they are still an important channel to maintain. Phone calls provide personal touch that can be hard to replicate through other forms of communication.
  • EmailEmail
    Emails are great for exchanging transactional information like order confirmations, newsletters, and customer communication surveys. They provide the same assurance that physical invoices and mailers provided in yesteryears.
  • Social MediaSocial Media
    Although social media was initially used primarily for personal use and to maintain personal interactions, they have now become a valuable tool for customer interactions and to build a community around brands. For example, more than 20 billion messages are exchanged between businesses and users monthly on Facebook Messenger alone.
  • TextsTexts (SMS)
    Texting is a great way for businesses to market and cut through the noise. While emails can easily get buried in someone’s inbox, customers almost always see their text messages. Even better? Texts have a 98% open rate. Utilizing mass text messaging is a great way to send updates to all of your customers quickly. You can also use your business’s landline number to text your customers so that they know that your texts are not spam.
  • Webchat IconWebchat
    Webchat is one of the easiest ways for customers to contact you. While on the site, customers will see a chat widget at the bottom corner of the screen, where they can easily type in their name, number, and question. Webchat is efficient for customers, and it can even lead to new deals for your business.

Inefficient customer Interaction channels

A few decades back, it was normal to make a trip to stand in line at a service counter just to ask a question or have an issue resolved. Fast forward a few years, a phone call made this task much easier and faster.

Today phone calls are on their way to becoming obsolete too. Here are some reasons why:

  • Phone calls are inconvenient

    When customers call businesses, they need to take a pause from what they are doing and dedicate time to make the call. The experience may be less than perfect if they have to wait on a phone queue to speak to a live person. Oftentimes this wait may be long and the call may get disconnected causing further customer frustration and a bad customer experience.

  • Drain on resources

    If a business relies on phones for managing its customer interactions, they need to make sure that there is enough staff to man the phones. Unlike all other customer interaction channels, the agents on the call can only attend to one customer at a time. No multitasking.

  • Difficult to track customer interactions

    Key to good customer interaction management is maintaining a customer communication log. This log helps to learn about all the prior customer interactions so that customers can get a personalized experience. It is difficult to keep track of interactions over the phone unless the agents document the conversations manually.

What about emails?

Emails still have their place in customer communication, but they are just not an efficient tool for everyday customer interactions. They are great tools to provide documentary evidence like invoices or announcement emails. But when it comes to customer to company communications, they are neither efficient nor able to provide a good customer experience. Here are some reasons.

  • Low open rate

    Traditionally emails have an open rate of 40 to 60%. What this means is that the other 60 to 40% emails are not even opened. These are a lot of missed communications. In contrast texts have a 98% open rate making it a more reliable customer interaction channel.

  • Response takes time

    The average response time for an email is 16.83 hours. Now let's assume you ask a question and you get a response after 16+ business hours and then you have a follow up question. Now you have to wait another 16 hours or so to get an answer to that question. How inconvenient. Compare this with texts that are opened within 90 seconds and Live chat where questions are answered in near real time.

  • Risk of looking unprofessional

    Not everyone in the organization may have an impeccable flair for writing or presenting answers in a clear and concise manner. Emails are an accepted form of formal communication and any deviation from a perfect response can seem unprofessional. Compare this with texts where the agent can even sign off with a smiling emoji after a great conversation and it will be acceptable.

Modern customer interaction tools for the new-age customer

To win in this new world, businesses need modern tools to acquire, engage and retain customers. Today’s consumers actively seek out mobile and digital channels to deliver the level of real-time results and engagement they expect. Convenience and instant gratification are now the cornerstones of digital experience. Take for example smartphones - it is impossible to deny that smartphones have entirely altered online engagement.

Here are some key modern customer interaction tools to engage and delight the new-age customer.

  • Webchat

    The tiny but powerful website widget on your website allows you to engage with visitors immediately. For customers it means access to customer support in real time. For other visitors, it means getting their questions answered quickly to aid their research to help them take faster decisions. Different type of webchat (or website chat) options in the market include:

  • Live chat

    When it comes to convenience, nothing can beat the experience of getting questions answered quickly via a live chat. The website visitor gets answers to their questions while they are on the business website. You can continue doing what you are doing (drafting a business proposal, answering your emails in a loud office or enjoying some family time) and still continue to chat with the business.

  • Chatbots

    These AI-driven minions help you answer standard questions from your website visitors like ‘What are your hours?’ and ‘where are you located’. This not only helps website visitors get answer questions instantly but also frees up your support team to answer other pressing customer queries.

  • Text-based webchat

    Let's say a question comes in from a website visitor after business hours and is something that your chatbot is not trained yet to answer, text-based webchat comes in really handy. You can respond to your website visitor via text messages later when you are back in office or even from your mobile app during your commute home.

Webchat ensures that you do not miss a single message and gives you the opportunity to respond to your website visitors wherever they are. An ideal scenario involves all these variants working together to provide your customers and prospects with a great experience.

Get Live chat for your website today

Messaging

Texting Is The New Business Essential

With convenience, accessibility and functionality in mind, mobile is the channel of choice across all industries. People are using messaging to not only stay connected with friends and family but also with businesses.

Here are some of the most popular messaging options:

  • Text messaging (SMS)

    While 89% of consumers would like to use messaging to communicate with businesses, only 48% are equipped to connect with customers through messaging. Interestingly, 53% of people are more likely to shop with a business they can message directly. Texts are a great way to stay connected with customers even when you or they are on the go. Convenience and speed makes text messaging a preferred interaction channel for today’s customer.

  • Landline texting

    Your website, appointment cards, invoices, newsletter - all have your business phone number. Chances are that your customers also have this number stored in their phone contact list. When you use your landline to text your customers, it takes the suspicion out of the equation. Your customers know that the message is from you. Communication is seamless.

  • Mass texts

    Marketing emails have a way of getting buried in inboxes or removed as spam and telemarketers are generally hated. Mass texts help to circumvent both these issues and help deliver a better response rate. They also come in super handy if you want to make a general announcement to your customers. Mass texts are therefore a great new-age marketing as well as customer engagement tool.

  • Facebook messenger

    People increasingly prefer to message businesses. According to a Facebook study, people who message businesses increasingly say messaging is the best way to engage with a business. This is not surprising. Facebook has over 2.4 billion users and out of this at least 1 billion people use messenger each month. As they are already on Facebook and using messenger regularly, it is convenient for them to use this channel to connect with businesses.

Messaging is convenient, quick and efficient. This makes it an ideal customer interaction channel for today’s digital consumer.

Once you have decided on all the customer interaction channels you want to manage, it may be an overwhelming exercise to manage them individually. Then there is the problem of being able to monitor their performances at one place. This is why it makes sense to invest in a customer interaction management platform that makes the process easy to implement and monitor.

Get started with messaging today

How to develop a successful communication strategy

How customers feel about a company is dependent on the sum total of all the interactions they have with the business. Did the company meet my expectations each time I contacted them? Did I get the same level of attention and help irrespective of how I reached them - messenger, chat, text etc?

Businesses should put a customer communication strategy in place as a start. This would determine how employees communicate with customers regardless of the channel. But before that can be done, some research needs to be done. You need to:

  • Understand Your AudienceUnderstand your audience
    It all starts with an understanding of the characteristics, pain points and interests of your customers. This forms the basis for some ground rules like - how many times is it okay to communicate with them? Tone of voice - business like or more personal. What type of communication would they like to receive and not.
  • Set Your ObjectivesSet your objectives
    What are you hoping to accomplish in your business’s communications?
    Is there something you have been unhappy with that you want to improve? Figure out clear objectives to make your strategy focused.
  • Be Clear About Metrics And GoalsBe clear about metrics and goals
    How will you know if your communication strategy was effective? Can you set benchmarks and goals along the way to help your business achieve success? By asking yourselves these questions, you will have a better handle on what “success” means and what your goals are.
  • Create a communications guide to set a standard that employees at all levels can refer to. A communication strategy also ensures quality assurance to improve customer relations at every level.
customer communication tips

Tips for effective customer communication

Each interaction is unique, however there are some practical tips that can help you make your customer interactions effective.

  • Speak in a conversational tone

    When talking to customers, whether it’s online or in person, be sure to communicate in a relaxed tone. For a customer to feel heard and understood they need to feel like they are talking to a “real person,” and not something that looks like an automated answer.

  • Remain calm

    If a customer interaction is turning sour, do your best to keep a level head. The calmer you approach the situation, the more likely the customer is to listen. Then together, you can both reach a solution to the problem.

  • Listen

    Customers feel valued when they are heard. Even if a customer is saying something negative, do your best to let them know that you hear their concern and that you want to help. By showing customers that you’re listening to them, you will make them feel valued, whether they have a complaint or praise.

  • Make yourself accessible

    When it comes to customer interactions, your customers want two things: a reliable way to reach you, and prompt response times. Maximize your company’s accessibility. Stick to communicating with customers in the communication channel with which they contacted you (unless they state otherwise), and make sure that your response times are quick.

  • Practice patience and a good attitude

    Remember, your behavior is a reflection of your company. If you do your best to be patient and understanding with your customers, you are much more likely to have successful customer interactions.

  • Encourage a dialogue

    It’s important that your customers know you want to hear from them. Having an open line of communication will keep your company in the know of what you’re doing right, and where you need to improve.

Barriers to communication with examples

In order to have successful customer interactions we need to know the classic communication barriers and ways in which employees can address them. Here is a list of the most important ones:

  • Inattention to customer concerns

    It isn’t enough to just listen to customer concerns, you must also respond to them. When a customer has taken a natural pause, be sure to indicate that you are still listening. Then, when a customer has finished talking, ask clarifying questions and repeat back to them what you understood from the conversation.

  • Employees changing

    If customers have trouble reaching the same agent, it can be very irritating for them to keep re-explaining their situation to each new employee. To avoid having customers start from square 1, do your best to have one employee help a customer so no information is lost in the shuffle. If this is not possible, make sure you have a system in place to help provide personalized service at each customer interaction.

  • Accessibility

    Does your website have chat? Are you there for them in case they reach you through Facebook messenger? Are they able to text you their questions? All of these can cause accessibility issues for your customers. When a customer has a concern, they should be able to easily contact you. Make sure you have all the right tools and trained people to address this.

All these barriers can easily be addressed with a reliable customer interaction management platform. Before we talk about what an ideal customer interaction platform should have, let's look at all the channels that customers use to get in touch with a company.

What to look for in a customer interaction management platform

Today’s customer is digital and uses digital channels - web, mobile, social - to consume content, engage with brands and complete a transaction. Done properly, these channels can foster long-lasting and profitable relationships. The right customer interaction platform should meet all of your needs to manage the expectations of your customers and then some! Here are some must haves:

  • Livechat

    Livechat is great for when you have the resources to manage incoming communication. All your website visitors have to do is type in their question and they get an answer immediately on the website itself from a live agent. This is great for questions that require a timely and subjective answer.

  • Chatbot

    This is a perfect option for questions that can be preloaded and answered automatically. Questions like — what’s your address? What are your working hours? Are you open? — can be answered by a chatbot while you attend to other customers or tasks.

  • Business texting from your website

    While livechat is great, it is a financial drain to have someone to answer livechat at all times. With Webchat, you can make sure that all the questions/queries are stored in your Inbox and you can respond to them when you are again able to. These replies go straight to the customer’s mobile phone as texts, which helps you retain your leads.

  • Text messaging

    Today, it is up to the business to meet the customer where they are. Make sure your customer interaction software has this ability.

  • Landline texting

    Your customer interaction platform should also help you enable your landline phones to send and receive texts.

  • Mass Texting

    Text messages are the most personal way to reach out to customers. Having this ability will help you send bulk messages to customers and also use it for marketing.

Apart from these, there are some other features that can powerpack your customer interaction program.

  • Stay connected with Facebook Messenger

    Almost everyone is on Facebook, and that includes your customers. When looking for a customer communication management platform, look for one that can integrate with Facebook Messenger.

  • View all communications in one unified Inbox

    When your employees are sorting through Facebook messages, texts, chat — it can get overwhelming. Your software should include a unified Inbox, where you can bring all conversations together to manage and respond to all messages from multiple channels from one place.

  • Create templates

    Using a customer interaction platform, you should be able to create message templates that reflect the tone and voice of your business. No matter who is communicating with the customer, the voice of the business will remain consistent.

  • Use attachments

    You shouldn’t need to struggle to describe something to your customer, or suffer because your customer can’t describe an issue to you. Look for a business texting software that supports sending attachments.

  • Access all your contacts

    When a new lead reaches out to you, the right customer interaction platform should automatically save that contact in your database. The platform should also have the ability to differentiate between new leads and current customers. By doing so, you can make sure that every communication is relevant and adds value.

  • Internal notes

    Want to cut down on loss of information because of changing employees? Your customer management system should have one inbox where everyone can work together, collaborate, and be on the same page to ensure success. This way, there will be more accountability and collaboration between your team as well.

  • Get notifications and take your platform on-the-go

    Apart from getting notified by email and SMS text messaging, the right customer interaction platform should have the option to enable desktop notifications so that you are notified of every incoming query. This way you never miss another message, whether you are at your desk, out to lunch, or taking a walk.

What do I gain with a customer interaction management system?

With an effective customer interaction management system, your business gains many valuable assets including:

  • Increased automation

    Through templates, customer interaction management systems create well-designed, highly personalized communications, without taking up too much of your time. You don’t need to sacrifice personalization for automation. The right customer interaction software will help you create personal touches, without draining your resources.

  • Better up-selling and cross-selling opportunities

    Integration of enterprise data into transactional communications helps create responsive and agile marketing for better up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. As you communicate with your customers better, you will start to understand them better.

  • Fantastic QA of customer communications

    When all of your customer interactions are in one place, it is easier to monitor the quality of your communication across all channels. This increased visibility and control over your communications will help strengthen your business where necessary and help your business operate profitably.

  • Use customer communications to drive growth
    Using all of the features discussed — three types of chat, mass texting, unified Inbox, easy contact management, etc.— you can create a flawless communication strategy for your business. This will also ensure that you deliver exceptional customer experience every single time. Create your communication strategy and find the right customer interaction management platform for your business, today!
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