When it comes to interacting with your business, most customers know what they want.
If they’re old-school, like my Mom, they may prefer to speak to “a real live person” (seriously, my Mom loses her shit if she can’t get a human on the phone). If that’s the case, you better not have some automated robot killing the customer’s will to live by repeating, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that, please
repeat your request.”
On the other hand, some people will do anything to avoid picking up a phone and dealing with the tedium of human interaction; they want to click, type and be done with it. I’m in that camp; give me an online platform I can zoom through without having to exchange pleasantries with a stranger and I’m a happy dude.
The critical thing is that you know which communication channel your customers prefer and then work your tail off to optimize that experience. You’ll actually be able to save time and money by focusing your efforts on the channel they use, rather than half-assing a bunch of channels no one’s using.
Step 1: Know Thy Customer
You’re an astute business-owner, and that means you know your demographic better than you know your significant other (we know you forgot their birthday last year, it’s ok). It’s time to put that knowledge to good use. When your customer wants to reach out, understanding how they want to do it will allow you to optimize their experience and your bottom line.
Regarding demographics, we wish we could say, “All women…” or, “All seniors…” but it’s just not that simple. There are a few guidelines, but ultimately, you know your customer better than anyone.
Senior citizens might “generally” behave one way, but your software company caters to seniors, so your clients probably don’t interact with you like their contemporaries.
According to a recent Information Management study, there are at least some generalities you can rely on:
• Senior citizens prefer in-person and personalized phone service over automated or web services. They’re rapidly becoming more comfortable with electronic communication, but still place a high value on person-to-person contact.
• The vast majority of teens, Generation Y and Generation X folks grew up using technology and, unsurprisingly, prefer online self-service options. They use a website or mobile app like a boss and expect quick and intuitive online services.
• Baby Boomers like a nice balance of both online and offline options. Most have a pretty high comfort level with the internet, but still value having the option to pick up the phone and talk to a real person.
• Women who use online channels place very high expectations on those means of communication and expect responses to be personalized, speedy and consistent.
• Men like information and service to be upfront and self-service…think of the way guys hate asking for directions. When they do have to hang their heads and request support, they prefer live chat to e-mail.
• Consider unique demographic groups, such as new parents. New moms, for example, can’t invest time in a phone call but are able to shoot off a quick e-mail or press “purchase” online while also feeding the baby.
Ultimately, relying on “geuss-timations” is the least advisable route of action here. If you have some idea of your clients’ preferences but still aren’t sure, do some research. Track your on-page forms conversion rates versus inbound calls. Use phone-tracking systems like Call Fire (our favorite) or One Box to see who is calling and how many of them are converting. Get as much info as you can on your customer’s communication likes and dislikes before choosing a channel to optimize.
Step 2: Make it Work, People
Now that you know your clients inside and out, your next move should be clear. If, for example, more customers are reaching out and converting on the web, focus all of your attention on driving more users to your web based forms.
Think about it this way: When guests come over to your place, you want them to walk directly to the living room, because it’s the nicest part of the house. So you block off the bedroom, add a few signs that say “living room this way” and keep some snacks & booze in there. You do the same thing when you funnel customers to your best communication method.
There are lots of ways to guarantee that your customers’ preferred communication channel is optimized for conversion. The best way is to hire a marketing team to do that work for you (wink). Otherwise, we recommend using a heat-mapping (sometimes called click-tracking) tool.
Heat-mapping tools will track visitor behavior, by indicating “hotter” areas of your site. The more users click, the hotter that area gets. We use heat-mapping tools constantly for our clients and have been able to increase the likelihood a customer will call or submit a form requesting more information by as much as 76%!
Step 3: Track Yo Self Before you Wreck Yo Self
Track, Tweak, Repeat. Track, Tweak, Repeat. Make this your mantra.
Pat yourself on the back for making some moves in improving your customers’ preferred communication method, but don’t get too comfortable. This particular job is never done.
After you’ve made some changes to your web forms or call system, you’ve just started the process all over again. You have to see how these new modifications are affecting your conversion rates. Do your die-hard online users love the new interface or is it sending them running for the hills where your competitors live?
Keep fine-tuning this channel and studying the effects on conversions… by testing new ideas, tracking the return data, and correcting for error each time, you will ultimately create a perfectly optimized user experience (and make a ton of cash from your efforts).
And remember, it’s totally kosher to focus most of your energies on your on-page forms if you know that’s where the majority your conversions are happening, but don’t forget about the other channels entirely. If some business is still arriving by other methods like the good ol’ fashioned telephone, make sure the customers using those methods are being well-served too.
It’s unlikely that all of your clients are going to want to reach you the same way. But, depending on your business, it is pretty likely that the majority of them will have a preferred channel of communication. It’s your job to find out what they like, and make sure that that channel is converting potential customers like a beast.
Think back to the living room metaphor…half the battle is just deciding which room in your house is the nicest. Then you just position your throw pillows, light some candles and cue up the Marvin Gaye because it’s time to get it on!