The key to customer engagement: more trust and fewer bots

By Rob Fawkes on 17 Nov 2017

Companies keep telling me customer engagement is broken. I find this a shocking statement. We are connected to the internet 24/7, we’ve got endless tools available to speak to anyone; even my grandma uses Skype to call me on weekends. Engagement should be easier than ever before, how can it be broken?

even my grandma uses skype…

The answer is simple. Brands are relying on technology to fix a purely emotional issue. AI is the coolest thing that has happened to us in a long time and brands are justifiably excited about it. But the key to customer engagement is trust, not computer programs that behave like humans.

Rich, complex conversations which lead to happier customers and better products – that is true customer engagement. We all agree that AI is part of the future, but it feels like brands are passing  a problem that only humans can solve on to the bots.

People don’t speak to stones. Likewise, customers don’t speak to brands that don’t listen, they simply switch companies. Instead of bringing in the bots, here are eight things you can do to build customer trust and increase engagement.

  1. Give your customers a platform where they can speak to you, as well as to each other. This is the first step in showing you are not afraid and you trust them.
  2. Listen to their feedback and act on it. Create a transparent process so your customers can see how their feedback is being incorporated into your business.
  3. Share with them as much as you can. Open the virtual doors of your company, throw down the red carpet, and create a welcoming, inviting culture.
  4. Leave humans to tackle the emotional stuff. Bots are awesome and can handle millions of queries in a couple of seconds, but that doesn’t mean you can delegate the emotional stuff to them. Companies using AI to personalise customer experience are fooling themselves and their customers.
  5. Stop saying you are customer-centric (unless it is true). Putting the customer at the heart of your business involves a massive effort and needs to involve all your employees so everyone is on board. Customer-centricity is a lifestyle, not just a trendy concept.
  6. Establish a shared vision with your customers. Whether it’s building better mobile phones or saving the planet, you need your customers’ support to achieve your goal. And many want to be involved; the twenty-first century consumer isn’t satisfied with simply buying things, they want to understand your vision and be able to make a difference.
  7. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve done up until this point, your customers will call you out if you don’t deliver on your promises. This is the quickest way to lose their trust.
  8. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Accepting criticism is one of the most powerful tools to improve your brand. Not long ago brands used to delete (aka moderate) negative customer comments from their channels. Instead, embrace criticism, engage with it, and learn from it.

Trust is really powerful because it helps you create an environment where customers want to help you improve. If you remove trust from the equation what you often get is negative engagement or, in other words, a lot of ranting customers.

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