People no longer want to be marketed to. They want to talk instead.

Your marketing technology stack increases in complexity as you seek effectiveness and scale, but how good is your communications stack?
Big, brash advertising campaigns won’t be as potent as talking directly to your customer this year.
An interesting trend was highlighted in the latest of Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer surveys.
The global PR giant confirmed last week what many of us could have guessed. The survey of 33,000 people across 28 countries revealed the lowest levels of trust on record across all institutions including business.
Within the data was a new observation about the way consumers want to speak to businesses; a shift Edelman called ‘Talk With, Not At’.
Presented with ways of receiving information from businesses and asked which they were more likely to believe, respondents squarely plumped for a conversation with a ‘spontaneous speaker’ over a ‘rehearsed speaker’.
Participants also said they were more likely to believe someone citing ‘personal experience’ over ‘data’, and said they perceived a company’s social media to be more truthful than its advertising.
Consumers’ bullshit radars start tingling at the merest hint of a big, promotional advertising campaign that can often be perceived as brash, out of touch or merely inauthentic whitewash. People today simply don’t want to feel they are being marketed to.
They do still want to buy though. They want to browse and maybe engage and ask a couple of questions. They want to get a deal. They want to be treated as an individual and they want to buy from people they trust. So they want a conversation. They want information but are wary of beginning an overlong and frustrating inquiry with you that may see them cast into an unwanted conversation with the wrong person in the wrong department.

The average website converts two out of every hundred visitors. What if you found an easy way of turning those two conversions into four?

It’s worth noting here that I’m not using the word ‘conversation’ in the same way as I might have done when I was a marketing journalist getting excited about the emergence of social media in the early 2000s. I’m talking about an actual telephone conversation.

Consider this: Only two out of every 100 online visitors convert through the average website. The rest leave without engaging in any way. The chances are a sizable chunk of those that left without making themselves visible wanted to ask you a question. In fact, our data at Freespee shows that six visitors from that same hundred try to call the company behind the website with an enquiry.
Why do they call? According to a study commissioned by Google and Ipsos these people are often driven to call because there is not enough information on the website. Other times there is something specific they want to do that can’t be done on the website. According to the study 57% of callers pick up the phone specifically because ‘they want to talk to a human’.
Whatever the reason, these people are showing clear intent to convert – they arrived at a website and are now taking time out of their busy day to call. They are itching to buy and fiddling with their credit cards as they do so.
Again, according to our own data at Freespee, 40% of these ‘nearly customers’ hang up and move on before they get through to a real person because of a poor customer experience. Typically they’ve been faced with a clunky interactive voice response system: ‘Press 1 for…, press 2 for…’ and so on.
They disappear, these ready-to-buy customers that could have doubled or tripled your online revenue overnight, forever to remain invisible to you if you have no way to see and track them. And they’re not coming back.
The marketing technology stack is increasing in complexity for good reason as companies chase greater effectiveness and scale but how good is your communications stack? How embedded are your technologies and processes that allow you to talk to real customers and get a deal done quickly on their terms?
Buying and selling have both always been about people. That remains the case. People buy from people they trust. As you put the finishing touches to your big ideas and campaigns for the year to come, how much focus are you putting on finding ways to fielding real conversations with your prospects and customers?
What if you’re missing a trick? What if you could do something easy to turn those two conversions in every 100 into four? What if, just by finding ways to have a conversation with those that want to talk you could turn it into six?
What if we really started to listen to our customers? And just by listening to them, they became less frustrated, more trusting and far more responsive? What if we were able to drive superlative customer experience simply by having a conversation directly with our customers? Anytime, anyhow, any subject?
What then?

The Quiet Swedish Company Whose Software You Probably Already Use

This is a translation of an interview with Carl Holmquist, Freespee co-founder & CEO, published by Mimi Dilling from DI Digital on 1st January, 2017
“We got off to a false start at the beginning”, Carl Holmquist, CEO and co-founder of Freespee
When Carl Holmquist and Tobias Lindgren founded communications platform Freespee six years ago they initially met with considerable resistance. Now the company is attracting venture capital and major customers.
An ‘old’ approach to web-based customer communications saw online customers managing their own buying process with little interaction with the vendor. Freespee founders Carl Holmquist and Tobias Lindgren saw an opportunity to make it easier for brands and consumers to communicate and drive superlative customer experience.
“We were hitting our heads against a brick wall when we started talking about this six years ago,” says Freespee’s CEO Carl Holmquist. “Back then, everyone thought the Internet was self-service, but that’s simply not true. Customers are just as loyal to online stores as they are to physical stores; the only difference is that if companies are unable to provide a good customer experience online, it’s very easy for the customer to take their business elsewhere.”
Freespee has flown somewhat under the radar so far and has even been described as an obscure Swedish company . Few people know who the founders are, despite the fact they have acquired a huge sum of SEK 143 million in venture capital. This means it is more than likely that online shoppers will have encountered their software.
Freespee’s technology sits on top of the sales systems and customer systems of client companies, handling communication between them and their customers. One of its functions is to help companies answer their customers’ queries through platforms such as live chat, email and over the phone.
Read this article (in Swedish only) for more information: Swedish Freespee brings in SEK 90 million – “We are anonymous” 
“It’s like when you’re waiting for the train and it turns out to be running late,” says Holmquist. If the train operator doesn’t let you know, you get really irritated. The train might arrive at any time, which means you can’t leave the platform. But if you’re told that it’ll be leaving in half an hour, you can go and buy a coffee or something while you’re waiting,” says Carl Holmquist.
Last autumn, the Uppsala based company obtained a total of SEK 90 million from French venture capital firm Ventech and from their current owners SunstoneCapital (NTL) and Inventure (NTL). It also landed a host of major customers, such as JLLeBayBNP ParibasLloydsBank, the Marriott hotel chain and car giant FiatChrysler.
“And whether you’re a customer waiting for a train, sitting in a telephone queue or waiting for a response to a live chat, the communication about what to expect is pivotal to a customer’s experience,” continues Carl Holmquist.
“It’s like when you decide to call up a company. Rather than the website telling you that there’s a seven minute wait, you call them and make your way through the voice prompts before being told how long you have to wait. Why didn’t they just say so straight away, you can’t help wondering. This is something that could ruin a customer’s experience.”
“The problem here is not that the company doesn’t want to talk to you. They love talking to customers. As long as they’re talking to you, they’ve won because they’ve created a customer relationship.”
According to Carl Holmquist, 98% of visitors to a company’s website leave without buying anything. This is a problem that companies are only just realising exists and want to address; assistance from Freespee is just one of the ways they are trying to deal with the issue. Thanks to this trend, the company has grown so much that it now employs 40 staff and has offices in London, Barcelona, Paris and Cologne. But Freespee was not an obvious success from the outset.
“We got off to a bit of a false start at the beginning. We thought we could solve all the problems associated with communication between our customers and their online visitors. But such problems can vary hugely from organisation to organisation, and that’s where we dropped the ball. Fortunately, we were able to remedy this when our investor Sunstone came on board in 2012.”
Aided by this autumn’s capital injection, the company will continue to develop its software by exploring artificial intelligence-based features. Freespee is also considering expanding into the United States to get closer to US customers who are already using the company’s service on the European market.
“We now know exactly what we are doing and things are really starting to take off. We’re at the heart of the ecosystem for enabling new consumer behaviours,”declares Carl Holmquist.
The original article in Swedish can be found here:

Topics: Customer Experienceinterviewceo

Why Your Customer Engagement Must Become ‘More Human’ In 2017

Successful digital transformation starts with the basics – better conversations with your customers.

I have one business prediction for 2017. Actually it’s less of a prediction and more of an opportunity.

Businesses that thrive this year will have strategies to ensure their customer engagement becomes more ‘human’.
Technology continues to drive huge impact on the ways in which we deliver great customer experience but cloud software still can’t pick up on the specific mood of a customer.
Consumers expect you to deal with them as individuals with distinct needs. For complex or big-ticket purchases they have questions that they want answered before they’re prepared to reach for their credit card. They want to know that you’re listening and treating their questions personally and as a priority.
Technology entirely unsynced from a human connection between customer and vendor will only do half the job. And doing things by halves – delivering bang-average, industry standard experiences where algorithms allow you to get it ‘almost right’ – will be the thing that renders many brands irrelevant.
Consider three separate but related statistics that tell a scary story for consumer-facing businesses.
According to a recent study by West Unified Communications poor customer experience in the UK alone costs businesses £234bn a year.
Meanwhile, Accenture contends that 66% of consumers have recently switched brands due to bad customer service. More alarming perhaps is that of that 66%, more than 80% of respondents said there was something simple their original vendor could have done to prevent them from switching.
Here’s the third statistic: the Havas Meaningful Brands survey spoke to 300,000 consumers in 34 countries in 2015 and reported that people wouldn’t care if 74% of all brands disappeared for good tomorrow.
In other words, no business has a God-given right to survive.
What’s more, if your customers, each of whom sees themselves in a segment of one according to Trendwatching’s Five Trends For 2017, can’t see you working up a sweat to perfect their personalised experience, they’re willing to put you out of business.
It’s worrying. Especially as, and this is purely my contention, most businesses haven’t defined for themselves what really good customer experience really looks like.
Many businesses who think they do know often end up finding that they haven’t been ambitious enough in defining it. Either that or businesses make the mistake of standing still while they try to figure out who should own customer experience internally and how best to execute it.
Meanwhile, customer expectations do anything but stand still. They evolve. Your customers continuously judge you against their growing expectations for what is possible. That means whatever experience you’re delivering today probably won’t be acceptable tomorrow.
All this is costing you countless revenue. If you’re anything like the industry average, 98% of your online customers leave your website without doing anything. Each one of them is a potential sale.
Why are they leaving? Why did they come to your website in the first place? What did they want to see and why didn’t they stop long enough to engage with you? Do you know?
Maybe you just didn’t make it easy enough for them to ask their particular question via your website. That question may have opened up a conversation that would have turned a visitor into your customer.
Few things are more powerful in helping chart the future of a business in such uncertain times than hearing a customer’s question.
Few things are more powerful in driving customer satisfaction than being able to respond to that question in a timely and relevant manner.
As the industry explores better customer experience there is plenty of talk about customer-centricity. Being customer-centric means building your entire business around what is best for each customer.
Most companies instead build their business processes around delivering their product as cost-effectively as possible while driving shareholder returns. Similarly their customer experience is moulded within a framework that their teams and departments find convenient to deliver.
They figure out their strategy and use technology to deliver it. This algorithm-driven customer experience is good rather than great. Such a shortfall will be enough to kill you in 2017. Consumers won’t stand for good when they’ve experienced great elsewhere.
The opportunity we all have in the coming 12 months is to make our customer experience delivery instinctive, intuitive, flexible and personal.
Successful businesses will connect with customers. Context will be everything. They’ll match each of their customer’s curiosity, commitment and concern for finding them the best deal and correcting any mistakes. In short, the best of customer experience in 2017 will feel human.
In the marketing industry we’ve spent much of the recent past years talking about digital transformation. Defining it is hard. Executing it is much, much harder.
If you don’t know where to start with your digital transformation programme then simplify.
Begin with your customers.
Go back to basics. Have more and better conversations with them. Get human.