The race is on. Developing customer experiences that get customers committed to a brand in 2022 and beyond may be the single most important investment a business can make in the coming years. The prize: more sales, increased retention, greater market share.
A good quality product is no longer enough to be competitive. Customers expect more care and commitment from brands before they commit or part ways with their cash. Experiences that are authentic, personalized and convenient will be required to engage, capture attention, and win the trust that leads to business success.
And it seems customers are increasingly engaging with brands through one channel more than ever: video chat. Vonage research across four continents and fourteen countries discovered that 55% of consumers have now used video to connect with businesses, and preference for video chat specifically has risen by 300 percent.
“According to PwC, 82% of consumers want more human interactions from brands. But unfortunately, 59% of them also feel that when it comes to customer experience, companies have lost touch with the human element.
Human conversation remains the primary way people make complex or emotional purchase decisions, even as automation and artificial intelligence becomes embedded in everyday interactions. A customer may prefer to send simple questions over live chat or order fashion online, but when faced with a challenge their preference for self-service evaporates; they want to talk to a qualified human expert. One study by Google discovered that 61% of mobile users call a business whilst they’re in the purchase phase of the buying cycle.
The human touch is – and always will be, important. It makes the whole experience more engaging. And this is simply due to a simple yet overlooked fact in the rush to automated, at-scale engagements; customers are humans.
Voice and video engagement is now an essential aspect of the modern customer experience, with close to 90% of companies competing on CX alone. Extending brand voice through video in particular provides new opportunities to develop trusted brand/consumer relationships that build brand loyalty through human-centric digital interactions. No other online communication medium comes close to providing the same degree of personal connection, empathy, and customer service as a video call. It’s a significant brand advantage.
So how do the intangibles of human interaction through live video calls translate into increased loyalty in your brand, and tangible results on your business's bottom line?
Humans respond to faces. It’s hardwired into our psychology. When a person can see the other person’s facial expressions or body language, communication becomes much smoother. Research increasingly shows that’s true not only for interactions of a personal nature, but for business and consumer engagements as well.
Behavioural scientist Rory Sutherland of the well established advertising agency Ogilvy reveals that communication through a video call fosters a similar level of emotional bonding as in-person interactions, with video conveying “tacit and emotional information that voice and text alone don’t convey, and it gives you something to look at to hold your attention”.
Emotion in this context simply means the facial and body language cues that are foundational to human communication. Video enables these cues to be conveyed, with participants able to express themselves and also read the expressions of others. When video call participants make eye contact it elicits a similar response as in-person eye contact, a recent study from Tampere University found. The researchers found this was true even for a one-way video call, with the recipient smiling even when no one else could see (salespeople take note: even short glances into your webcam during a video call is all that’s needed).
[Eye contact image, perhaps over a video engagement]
The video contains all the visual and auditory signals that help create connection between conversational partners. As an example, support agents dealing with a complaint can’t always tell if a customer is angry over email or chat, but it’ll probably show during a video call. Such interactions are really opportunities to increase brand loyalty, for which a video call is the perfect method of engagement. Agents can better manage the situation by adjusting their tone of voice accordingly, turning a negative situation into one that improves the customer relationship.
Infact, live video call experiences go beyond what’s possible in the physical world of business meetings and retail, as your brand can connect with customers wherever they are in the world, at their convenience. Making human-centric interactions available to anyone, anywhere, is going to be ….create a unique bond that goes beyond the buying-selling relationship IPSUM.
Time to get real: empathy can’t be automated. As marketing and selling is all about psychology no amount of automation will ever replace a human’s innate ability to show it, and be genuine about it. Businesses looking for cost reductions in automated customer engagements should pause for thought.
Research by Genesys titled Personalization & Empathy in Customer Experience, found that: "Nearly half of consumers say the companies they regularly do business with don't show them enough empathy when delivering customer service". Known in CX circles as the empathy gap, businesses struggle with retention and lifetime value because digitisation of customer journeys has come with a great deal of automation – and automation often runs contrary to customer expectations of how they engage with brands. To become more empathetic businesses need to start thinking where in the digital customer journey they can do more to show empathy.
If your business's primary KPI is revenue growth, then boosting retention is clearly going to impact this metric. Providing a way for customers to hold video calls with your brand across the customer journey is a particularly effective channel because it’s inherently personalized; it is as close to an in-person interaction that's possible online, and the best way to understand customer needs and challenges in this medium; all of which contribute to revenue growth as 80% of shoppers are more likely to return to a business when they have had a personalized experience.
Being empathetic is good business, as customers have figured out there’s now plenty of choice in a world where digital channels are the norm, and it’s easier than ever to vote with their feet and choose a competitor. In such a world, customer experiences that facilitate customers and agents to use the full range of verbal and non-verbal communication can protect revenues by fostering the genuine relationships between brand and customer required for loyalty. This ultimately impacts the bottom line through increased customer retention, whilst enhancing the reputation of a brand in the process.
A study of TED speakers demonstrated that people are more interested in speakers who use gestures, partly because seeing physical motion helps people pay attention for a longer time. Other research has also suggested that using more gestures communicates personality traits, which is great for brands looking to extend personality into video calls – and reps who know how to deploy a little salesmanship in their pitch.
An over-reliance on live chat, chatbots, phone or automation in the customer journey erodes the connection between your brand and customers, with negative long-term results. McKinsey looked at the effect of trust on customer experience in banking, and found that “for bank customers, ‘a brand I feel close to’ and ‘a brand that I can trust’ were the top drivers for bank differentiation on customer experience.
“Video consistently outperforms text and images in getting people’s attention”
Adding video chat at the right point in a customer journey provides personal experiences at the right moment by making a live agent available who is skilled and has the expertise to resolve the customers demands. It builds superior credibility when an expert is guiding a customer through queries and issues. The customer feels more comfortable talking to and seeing a real, knowledgeable person. As researchers discovered, people are a lot better at identifying tone of voice if they can also see gestures – yet another finding to support the importance of visual cues, specifically body language, in communication.
Engaging with customers through video calls enhances a brands overall credibility as the customer can see the genuine efforts your agents are making to guide and resolve their queries.
In a Harvard Business Review study on customer emotions, researchers learned emotionally connected customers are less likely to defect to a competitor, more likely to recommend brands they care about, and 2.3 times more willing to pay a premium to brands providing a better customer experience, with PwC revealing similar findings.
Again, emotion simply means the ability to read and express body language. Engaging with customers via a video call connects them to your brand in a way that isn't possible through other communication methods and reminds them you’re not just another email in their inbox. This can make or break customer relationships as genuine human interactions boost customer satisfaction rates to retain customers and create brand advocates who share their experiences.
Speed is also a way to elicit an emotional response as customers not only want to feel connected, but be connected – fast! The most frustrating aspects of bad customer experience include long holding times and an automated system that makes it hard to reach an agent. With a lack of human connection in digital interactions, customers can feel ignored. The consequences? Missed opportunities to build loyalty and trust.
It is very important to understand what motivates customers to ensure successful customer service interaction. For example – A customer who reaches out to you with a complaint or problem, their motivation is probably to get the problem fixed. They expect an attentive ear who will acknowledge their right to feel bad about the problem.
Growing new opportunities – While listening to your customers closely you come to know what they actually want or expect from you. This can help to retain them with your business and develop new business opportunities.
Customers are humans, so the human touch will always be important in customer engagement. Real-time engagement provides brands with a decisive edge in the race for market share as the personalization offered by face-to-face communication is what customers demand when faced with complex purchase decisions or situations where emotions can run high.
Brands that can meet the customer through their preferred communication method at any point in the customer journey can get a significant advantage over the competition. Delivering the human touch fosters the genuine customer relationships that lead to brand loyalty, improved retention rates, and increased lifetime value, making the business benefits of video chat clear to see.
Speak with Crikle today to learn more, and discover where in your customer journey a live communication channel could deliver the most value for your business and brand.
However, there is a risk that in some quarters video, like phone calls before them, could fall foul of being seen as an expensive channel, particularly in the contact center and support space. Its introduction could run counter to industry trends which are largely focusing on trying to reduce the cost to serve and increase levels of self-service.
The question will be how many brands and organizations will be able to look past the perceived expense and see the advantage.