Over the past two decades, we have seen a wide range of technology innovation that has led us away from using our voices.
Instead, we rely on technology often exclusively to communicate with one another (especially with mobile devices). We text, we email, we use social media. Those tools have all been designed to reduce how much we are required to talk to one another. When was the last time you emailed a coworker when you could have walked over to speak with him or her? We're all guilty of doing that.
However, in spite of the best efforts by technologists worldwide, we're going to continue talking to each other. New ways of communicating have not replaced older ways. Writing did not replace speech. Television did not replace radio. Texting has not replaced phone calls. We inherently know there are certain situations when a conversation is critical. (BIA/Kelsey even reports mobile marketing will drive 162 billion calls to US businesses by 2019.)
Here are five conversations we will always have in a very human way via a phone call.
1. The Q&A
The Q&A is any conversation where customers are unsure how to ask the question. It has to do with a purchase, process, or product that they're not very familiar with. If they need help asking the right questions, the easiest way to get the right answers is the human way: with a conversation.
Take life insurance, for example. Life insurance has its own vocabulary where the names of the products change every year. There's whole life insurance, universal, term, guaranteed term—who can keep them straight? So if customers are looking to protect their loved ones, they want (and need) to talk to an expert.
And questions to experts—when the subject is a complex, infrequent, and potentially expensive purchase—require a phone call for clear answers.
2. The "What Are My Choices?" Call
Customers have these conversations when they need to ask a business to clarify the options available to them. "What are my choices?" Customers are not looking for a yes or a no answer; they're looking to have a conversation about their purchase.
Let's say a customer is shopping for a new car and have a particular make or model in mind. A customer is going to call the dealership to check inventory. Maybe the dealership's response is "No, we unfortunately don't have a black 2013 Nissan Altima. But we do have a silver 2014."
First, the dealership has the opportunity here to save some business. Second, if a conversation requires this kind of dialog, it's tedious to do it in a chat, an email, or other message where customers have to wait for a response. People prefer a phone call.
3. The Negotiation
Effective negotiators use more than facts in their negotiations. They use subtle information, such as body language or someone's tone, to their advantage. But if a customer tries to negotiate over email, all he or she sees is facts bouncing back and forth.
The human voice is our most powerful means of communication. When people negotiate over the phone, they can hear someone's tone, his cadence. Customers hear what a business really means to say.
However, when customers read emails, they can't tell how fast the other person typed his sentence or how quickly he would have responded.
So, when timing, tone, and cadence—these kinds of subtleties—are important in a conversation, we talk to one another.
4. The Emergency
The emergency conversation occurs when there's water dripping from a customer's ceiling. Or he or she is in a fender bender. Or the fuse in a customer's kitchen keeps blowing out.
Customers aren't dropping plumber, auto insurer, or electrician into an online shopping cart. These are situations where customers need immediate assistance. When they fill out a form or send an email, it simply takes too long for that plumber, insurance agent or electrician to get back to them.
No one can afford to wait in an emergency. Instead, your customers are picking up the phone and calling.
5. The "Honey, I Think We Get It"
These are the big purchases. The ones where your customer has made an emotional decision to make a purchase (like a new home), but the purchase is more complex. Customers are not picking out a new pair of shoes online but investing in something bigger. And they're often saying, "I'm ready, I want to do it now."
But your customer still has questions, and the purchase still requires negotiation.
When a customer is ready to do something right now, when he or she is finally ready to take the next step with a big investment, he or she doesn't want to have to wait after sending an email. Your customer wants to pick up the phone and have that conversation with you right away.
* * *
Each of those conversations occurs at different points throughout the customer journey; some during discovery, others during decision-making or purchase.
Businesses that give their customers the opportunity to have a conversation then have the opportunity to optimize those calls. Whether creating a seamless call experience once someone dials a number or they use call data to optimize their marketing to drive more callers, businesses that engage in those five types of conversations understand the power of human dialog.
To grow your business, talk to your customers.
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