In the not-too-distant future, the difference between winners and losers will be how brands treat their customers – that is, the level of service they deliver, and how they respond to and engage with them. (You’ll be able to track the ‘losers’ in this battle by their negative customer reviews showing they haven’t provided an adequate level of service.)
Today’s consumer expects a high level of responsiveness from brands – whether active (responding to enquiries) or passive (nurturing activities through your sales funnels). Put simply, customers expect that you’ll respond to them if they reach out to you. This expectation will only grow in the coming years.
Writing on Hubspot, sales expert Jeff Hoffman believes there is an average of 8 touch points (or follow-up conversations) required before a customer will convert – we believe this number will blow out significantly in the future. Without some level of automation, this increase will stretch your sales and marketing resources to the limit.
Even with a commitment to ‘personalised’ service, most brands will eventually need to deliver some aspects of their customer service through automation (anything from automating ‘thank you’ emails when a customer sends a message or signs up, through to full-blown automated sales funnel nurturing programs).
You can’t scale if you don’t automate – it’s that critical to the growth of your business. For this reason, brands need to invest in your customer experience in order to remain competitive. And if you don’t set your sales automation up now, you’ll be left behind. When you eventually realise you can’t manage your sales process and you need to automate, it’s probably already too late.
Any key aspect of your business has to have a strategy behind it. It’s not enough to say ‘we will automate a few email or SMS campaigns’ – it has to be designed, planned and executed as part of a coherent overarching strategy. Planning this is not done in a day – it can take days or weeks to get right.
How do you do this effectively?
It takes empathy – this is the key to any customer experience strategy. It’s about connecting to the needs of your customers. If you can’t put yourself in their shoes, you need to conduct research to find out when and how they want to engage with you.
An example of empathy is the concept of ‘right channel’. There is a general expectation you’ll communicate with customers and prospects via the channel they reached out to you on – at least initially. However, too many salespeople – who are all very comfortable on the phone – struggle to understand that not everybody wants a phone call directly after an enquiry – especially if they contacted you via a web form. A growing number of consumers want to minimise high-pressure salesperson interactions, at least until they are armed with more information. Sometimes, a call can scare off someone who may eventually want to buy, but who is not ready to engage with a salesperson right now. (This is particularly true for Gen Y and Z.)
There’s already a high level of competition for customers. The future of your brand may hinge on your ability to respond and engage with customers in the way that they prefer. It’s really not too much to ask; and if you don’t do it well, someone else somewhere in the world will.