Who would have believed twenty years ago that as people and as consumers we would no longer have the desire to talk on the phone. The art of conversation, especially for Irish people, is the very essence of our being but let’s face it, over the last 10 to 15 years there has been a seismic shift in how we all communicate and now, our go to mode is messaging - it is easier, faster, less intrusive and more outcome driven that a telephone call. The evolution of mobile phones and messaging have killed the phone conversations, or have they?
I would argue that we have just become more efficient in our interactions and for most of us we have simply adapted our conversation style to the reality we find ourselves in. Conversations are still an important part of our lives and in fact more so, I ‘talk’ or message more people than I ever would have had a phone call with.
In fact, the idea of a face-to-face conversation or a voice-to-voice conversation is alien to some, especially millennials and the generations following them. The simplicity of getting things done without talking to anyone is now the norm. It is seen to be faster, more efficient and easier, as no eye contact required, unnecessary ramblings just getting to the heart of what you want to say sooner rather than later.
Even in working environments, for years it has been believed that open-plan offices would increase productivity, but the results are in…and that is not the case. In a recent Harvard study it was found that your open-plan office is making your team less collaborative. Face-to face engagement is decreasing with e-mailing colleagues the more favoured engagement approach.
Now I love a conversation, but I have fallen into that head down, eyes on the screen category. Let me use written words rather than my voice to engage with my colleagues. But where does that leave businesses, especially those who really need to talk to customers like collections and recovery teams, how is this shift to messaging impact reaching customers and getting them to engage?
The days of ordering customers to ‘CALL’ to ‘PAY’ are coming to end. Adopting a conversational tone in any type of engagement, especially a collections conversation - the wording of the initial outbound message, be it from a chatbot or an agent SMS conversation sets the tone. It is obvious. If a customer is struggling to make a payment and receives a ‘Hello John, we are trying to contact you, I am here to help, can we talk about how to work on your outstanding balance? ” is much more likely to result in a customer responding.
And giving agents the ability to interact with customers in a conversational manner also has its benefits. By adding conversational chatbots to lower value or repetitive interactions frees up agents to work on more valuable customer engagements. In addition, an agent can handle multiple customer conversations at the same time – we have seen one agent handle up to 10 customers at the same time.
From a ‘does this conversational messaging really work?’ perspective, the answer is absolutely! Our clients have seen customer engagement rates of up to 50% for ‘unresponsive’ customers - that is customers they were chasing, chasing and chasing some more, and within a very short time were having successful outcome-based conversations. Another retail client saw a 52% increase in payment arrangements achieved through conversational messaging. Results that surpassed even their expectations.
So even though customers don’t want to talk to your business anymore, that doesn’t mean they won’t have a conversation.