You Should Know What Happens Before A Customer Call

customer call

Before a customer call, they have used a path your business carefully constructed to get them there, all those digital breadcrumbs have a purpose and can create quick but meaningful conversations. It’s vital to not waste the resources you placed to manifest a potential sale.

Their context matters

The digital context for each visitor is the culmination of their online journey, it includes all their digital interactions up to the point of contact with a company – clicks, searches, Google Ad words, etc.

In this case, contact means the second they call. When that connection is made, it’s vital for the agent on the other side of the call to understand the path taken by this customer to get to them. You can do this by understanding your customer’s digital context.

Today’s caller/browser/internet ninja simply wants an automated, easy experience because that is what they are used to.

Users are just more agile and they expect companies to follow suit especially when the cost is high. Complex purchases require potential customers to heavily research a product’s intricacies. For example, over 95% of automotive buyers do their information gathering online before they visit a brick and mortar dealership.

Taking advantage of all these digital micro-moments leading up to that coveted face to face meeting can create an easy experience both online and offline. What a pleasant surprise that would be for a customer when they find out you’re already an expert on what they want.

Know the acquisition source

Acquisition source is the touchpoint someone comes from when they enter your brand realm, a lead could arrive from organic search, PPC, direct traffic, referral website or a print advertisement and use an array of devices to reach out.

It’s really important to know this information because it can help stakeholders save a lot of money. By measuring multi-channel traffic, it’s easier to know where to invest the most and the least.

It’s not all about the chatbot

Despite the multiple predictions, chatbots are not replacing human agents – yet. They are useful, but more for uncomplicated questions, quick notifications and routing callers to the right agent.

According to a study by PWC, “75% of global customers “want to interact with a real person more as technology improves”.

Before a call, it’s easy to turn off a customer if the chatbot is a dominant factor. Bridging human interaction seamlessly is where a chatbot can be useful but the emphasis [and money] should be on improving the skill set and knowledge of an agent before pumping funds into AI services that step further away from human connection.

Via: PWC, Think with Google.

The Art Of Breaking Through Customer Communication Barriers

customer communication

Conversations through technology have come a long way, the space contains both personal and professional interactions. When it comes to customer relationships, our approach to communication seems to lack much-needed personalisation. A border can form between customers and agents made of misunderstandings and incorrect data. There are ways through this.

Our CEO Anne de Kerckhove was recently featured in an article by French journalist David Abiker, in it, he comments on Anne’s speaking appearance at a conference they both attended. Her topic of choice focused on breaking down borders, both in business and life.

During the presentation, David and the audience noticed that her zipper hadn’t been done up – what the French and David call “the detail that kills” or “le detail qui tue.” Instead of shying away from the issue, Anne chose to face her faux pas and make it a funny interlude. She addressed the crowd, “Yes I know, I have the zip opened, I broke it in the bathroom, that’s how it is…” Immediately the air in the room changed from awkward silence to joyous relief.

One little zipper distracted the crowd of listeners from a vital discussion but it also proved her point. We can dissolve barriers by acknowledging their presence, it’s an age-old tenet – address the problem before you search for a solution.

Abiker also touched on this messaging in his piece and we can’t help but find a correlation with what we do – breaking borders between customers and brands.

Breaking borders in communication

In customer communication, there are now multiple channels leading to a brand. Often there are too many, causing more chaos than is necessary. We forget that human beings exist behind all the data and that’s a major problem.

“Customers do not care about the extent of your “omni-ness.” They care about the quality of your service,” says Harvard Business Review. 

Improving the quality of service is achieved by listening to customers. It’s easy for service reps to have a disconnected relationship with their clients. Especially when it’s through chat and response time is slow or when agents are located in another country. By humanising the process and using technology to understand customers on a personal level, it’s easier to build a bridge over the gap and get the conversation going.

Much like how Anne bit through awkwardness with transparency, the same process can be applied to customer communication. Wade through the scripted conversations, chatbots and IVR. Walk right up to the elephant in the chat room.

Via: Harvard Business Review, David Abiker.

What Customer Data Can Do For Dealerships


The dealership is the final stop on the purchase journey for an automotive customer but the experience usually begins in a third-party environment. Most customers aren’t willing to endure the long purchase process dealerships offer on the ground. A study by Cox Automotive found that dealerships scored a 46% satisfaction rate for how long the final purchase process takes.

“Despite billions spent by OEMs (brands) and dealers on modern showrooms, slick mobile apps, and armies of social media managers, the human element —the last mile of the customer experience—is keeping consumers away from dealerships and crippling the auto industry,” writes Lior Arussy, CEO of Strativity Group for Dealer Marketing Magazine.

Aligning the human workforce with the digital experience comes down to how the scores of customer data streaming in and out of dealership management systems are utilised and how ready sales teams are to use this to their advantage.
Dealerships have a lot on their plate, often one dealer is managing multiple car brands, leads can get lost in the ruckus. At times customers walk in unannounced and dealerships are ill-equipped to meet expectations.

Therefore the human element can be improved by auto brands both acknowledging the needs of an empowered customer and equipping their teams to handle multiple interactions. It’s not just about gut instinct and talent anymore, data is there to be used and the dealerships that fail to modernise will fall behind.

This is where a data-driven (pardon the pun) approach comes in handy. Here are a few ways to apply customer data to improve the dealership experience.

Collect data!

Gauging a potential buyer’s digital context is the first step to a more complete understanding. How did they get there? Was it a dealership group landing page, a PPC ad via Google or a banner ad on a news centre like the Guardian website. Round up the context with the product itself, i.e., the car make and features. When all this data is collected, the context is complete. Customers that call or arrive from online forums are the easiest to track with the right technology, walk-ins can also be recorded into the CRM using registration forms or geofencing.

Profile and segment

After data is organised into profiles, it can be segmented and prioritised. Say one particular caller is interested in a luxury model, they would be placed in a higher value segment due to their increased CPA (cost per acquisition). Prioritising these callers based on aspects such as; location and car brand helps dealerships utilise their time and expertise better, in addition to improving customer experience and pick up rates. This kind of process is important for dealerships that sell more than one car brand because callers are assigned to a specific salesperson who has extensive knowledge of a particular model.

Dealerships Solution

Finally, data doesn’t have to be scary

For dealerships who are wary of the huge undertaking that comes with overhauling a legacy system, there is a silver lining. Integrations! These are useful because they are able to pass incoming data into an existing DMS (dealership management system) and make the process of change less jarring for auto brands and their vendors.

Via: Dealer Marketing Magazine 

Do We Really Want To Talk To Robots: Event Round Up

Freespee’s event; “Do we really want to talk to robots?” was a resounding success. An array of topics were covered by industry experts and GDPR fears were quelled. All in all, an evening of progress.

We started off with office preparations and photographs of the staff amongst the din. Prosecco was poured, and canapes were munched. Guests streamed in and socialised with Freespee team members in our open-plan space.
Eventually, we took our seats to begin the enlightening panel discussion featuring our CEO Anne de Kerchhove, Gumtree/eBay’s Head of Motors Vik Barodia and Freespee co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Carl Holmquist. The chat focused on AI, trust and the future impact of technology on brand and consumer relationships. Vik also brought up the future of MaaS (mechanics as a service), the gig economy and more.

The first quarter of the conversation covered AI. “It will become less an ‘I need something; therefore, I need to transact,” to a fully immersive experience that says, ‘hey have you thought about this?” and ‘we know what you want,’” said Vik.

He visualised a scenario where artificial intelligence is fully integrated into everyday goings-on.

“I’m amazed by what could one day be real life,” said Vik.

Presently, Barodia defines success in his industry not as predicting what a consumer wants before they want it, but by the building of trust.

“The reason that eBay is so successful is that it enhances the level of trust. eBay was one of the first businesses to introduce ratings. Ratings drive trust and probably the single biggest element of any transaction is trust. We see it on eBay and Gumtree all the time. Buyers are willing to pay more from a trusted seller. Influence comes from trust,” Vik stated.

Speaking of trust, during the Q&A portion, audience members brought up the word on everyone’s lips; GDPR.

One question explored how a post-GDPR world could stifle creativity when justification is now needed for every piece of data captured by marketers.
“I do think we’ll have a period of cleansing, but much of that pre-GDPR data wasn’t based on real relationships, replied Anne de Kerckhove. “We’re going to rebuild on true and trustworthy data and relationships. It’s a painful period, but once the data is clean, we’ll be able to renew our creativity.”

Renewal of creativity in this ever-changing world is something everyone can get onboard with.

“We are not that far away from big names in the digital space disappearing because they have failed to recognise what is happening in the online space, it’s completely cyclical,” Vik added.

Photographs: Howard Sayer 

An Interview With The Brains Behind Our Product And Operations

Product, engineering and operations are our backbone; these teams have helped propel Freespee into a front-running position within the conversational commerce arena. The last few weeks has seen the introduction of new faces and features to our community and platform.
With these launches in mind, we wanted to delve deeper into the production side of what makes Freespee tick. I caught up with our product managers, product marketing manager and head of tech operations to better understand the goings-on behind the scenes.

Product Managers and Product Marketing Manager: Jussi Pekka-Kekki, Carolin Wellering, and Heather Baden.

Product managers and product marketing managers probably have the best idea of what the client wants and know how to execute these requests. They’re creators at the end of the day, bringing together multiple variables to establish a unified product, all under the umbrella of the company vision. No easy task.
Freespee product managers Jussi Pekka Kekki and Carolin Wellering are based in Uppsala and run the operation from Freespee’s Swedish Hub, alongside London HQ-based Product Marketing Manager Heather Baden.

What is the role of product marketing in Freespee?

Heather: Traditionally, our role is to be the translator between product & engineering and sales/marketing. As with sides of the brain, every product marketer will “favour” a side. I lean more towards spending more time and energy with product and engineering – understanding how they operate and their pain points. This helps me in creating a more well-rounded translation to sales.
On a day to day, I work very closely with the product team to understand what is going to be released and when. We meet regularly to understand the detail of the features. I follow what they’re doing in Jira and try to have a general view of where things are before they get close to launch. As a translator, I then take my knowledge from both sides and create content that is technically rich but high level.

How are you involved in releasing a product?

Heather: That’s a pretty broad question. There really is no start or end to launching a new product/feature. There are a couple of key parts to a launch, but the foundation of it is always the technology. I work closely with engineering and product to understand the tech regardless of the size of the product and take that to create content.
The way I do this is through translating the tech into competitive solutions for sales to have an edge. For each release, I communicate the content internally in various ways (from newsletters to full-on training sessions). I’ll also produce externally facing guides and value propositions. One of the initiatives we’re kicking off now is improving our tech documentation, and full Getting Started for developers. It’s really exciting to have various facets of enablement and different audiences to translate to.

How do you approach building a new feature?

Carolin: Usually, it depends a bit where the new request is coming from, it starts with a problem that a client has, and then we think of ways the client can solve it. There is always a lot of useful feedback from clients and success managers. We then define particular and very technical requirements. These instructions are given to the engineers, and they execute. We work in agile, so we get a lot of feedback, a lot of learning by doing. It’s an on-the-go process.
One of the best parts of building a new feature is how everyone contributes to the functionality; everyone is trying to solve the problem.
Probably one of the most challenging aspects is the stakeholder management; it can be a bit of a challenge to evaluate how long a solution will take, sometimes we don’t know where we will end up. We don’t know the direct path, for sales and the success managers.

What has been your greatest achievement so far as a Freespee Product Manager?

Carolin: How we kicked off as a team was quite smooth. I tried to provide a vision for the team that we felt responsible for, making sure that everyone stays symbiotic. For me, the team always comes first. I at least always try to make sure everyone can contribute to where we want to go. I don’t like to dictate where we want to go. If its contradicting my opinion it’s even better. Freedom of communication in every aspect is vital.
With regards to product, I’d say a significant achievement has been building the roadmap. Overall, I hope that with Freespee, we help customers/clients better evaluate the calls coming in and the conversations they have with their customers. Freespee can show them the value in these conversations.

What is the role of product manager in a cloud communications platform like ours?

Jussi: Well, the first part is to be the advocate for both the customer and the consumer. The consumers are the broader audience; they’re on a website looking for a car, for us that person is important, but it’s the customer or client who pays our bills. They serve the consumer, but since there are millions of consumers its difficult to talk to them directly. So we talk to our customers to understand how they can better provide for their consumer base.
Our role is to interpret the signals and messages we get from both parties, all over the world. We sort of create answers to problems.

What has it been like developing the product?

Jussi: Challenge-wise, at some point you realise how little you know. We’re going full speed ahead testing solutions, but sometimes you forget how fast you’re going. We are constantly building it; it feels like it’s never going to be finished. It’s the toughest part, you want to get something done, but before that’s done you’re already working on the next thing, you don’t have the time to enjoy your accomplishments.
On the positive side, we have endless amount of innovative energy where the team is constantly looking to solve a problem. We’re in a nice place where we have the potential to grow the company and product. We have so many more ideas that we can’t wait to implement.

Head of Tech Operations: Peter Hedman

Peter was recently promoted to head of tech operations at Freespee, fronting the Tech operations squad which includes Alaa Rahimi and Håkan Lund. Tech operations is the foundation of our functionality – without operations our infrastructure would cease to exist! Peter gave me a bit more insight.

How do you plan to approach your new position? What does it involve?

Peter: It involves offloading Niklas [Malmgren] with all the operations work he did before becoming CTO. I will have a closer look into the operations team. Hopefully, I can develop a better understanding of what the team is able to do and chat about how I want to work towards each sprint.
The most enjoyable part about taking this role will be the opportunities to change and shape tech operations to my vision. Since I started here, I’ve had a vision of how to make things run as automatic as possible.

We recently moved to AWS (Amazon Web Services), what will this transition offer Freespee?

Peter: It means that we don’t have to worry about potential hardware failures and we have more space to keep expanding. With AWS we haven’t had a single hardware failure, which means everything is covered in the infrastructure. AWS probably has millions of hard drives up for grabs, they likely have hard drive failures every second, but you’d never know, its resolved so quickly and allows us to keep growing.

How does that benefit us?

Peter: It improves our ability to stay online as much as possible. Not even Amazon claims to be able to provide 100% online services, but I haven’t seen any hardware related downtime since I started here a year ago.

What would you say is the most useful tool you work with?

Peter: Jira is probably our most important tool. Before that, I could not live without the text editor Vim.

Greatest achievement so far?

Peter: Implanting the Saltstack software. We’ve gone from installing three servers (for example MySQL), over many hours to getting the job done in minutes.

How To Optimise The Most Vital Stage In The Purchase Journey

The buyer journey or buyer decision process was a concept first established by John Dewey in 1910. Dewey segmented the consumer experience into five stages, ending the journey at the “post-purchase stage” which contains within it a number of reactions, including “buyer’s remorse.”

According to social psychologist Harold Sigall via Psychology Today “social science research reveals that we are actually psychologically motivated to be satisfied with our decisions. On the simplest level, if our choices are informed by trustworthy data, we increase the chances of good outcomes.”
What is trustworthy data in digital enterprises? When it comes to customer interaction, data is anything communicated to the buyer to influence a decision or maintain a brand reputation. When Amazon shares their customer reviews, its expected that these are legitimate buyers vetted by the online retailer’s technology.

Trustworthy data is something many digital brands aim to offer their customer pool, though sometimes it’s at the wrong time. Amazon seems to have it right. In this blog, we’re focusing on the stage of a buyer’s journey that is essential for maintaining a company’s consumer community, the review portion or the post-purchase phase.

Why it counts

The consumer process has accelerated as technology has progressed, the decision-making phase is much quicker thanks to a reliance on mobile tech for purchase decisions, it’s just easier to buy products now, with one click the choice is made.

“The 2016 Mobile Path to Purchase study showed that 56% of people who research products opt to make a purchase decision – online or offline – within the hour, and overall over 70% want to be within 5 miles of a physical store,” writes Fresh Business Thinking.

After that point is a crucial time, because this is an opportunity for brands to enact a whole new line of communication and reassurance with a consumer, this is the moment to create a brand ambassador.
“Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle,” writes Lori Wizdo for Forrester.

So how do you keep the love alive when it’s all said and done?

Optimising the last stage

In this day and age, the best way to maintain the buyer pool after the fact is to have the right technology and use it in a way that makes that final decision feel supported. This means following up, seeing every prospect whether they buy or not as an opportunity is always a good shout, and sending automated SMS notifications post-purchase is a great way to keep cultivating that relationship.

Another way to maintain the connection is to increase the level of support channels, keeping in mind the multiple screens used by people these days. Make sure there is always a way for a prospect to reach out. Using segments is also important for the post purchase stage, if a brand is aware of exactly who is patronising their product and adapt responses accordingly — a soft touch can mean a favourable review at the end of the day.

Better yet, including the buyer in the company process by asking about their experience is also beneficial — feeling heard by an enterprise you just gave your hard earned cash could aid in a brand’s longevity.

An IBM survey discovered that, “63% of respondents indicated that a positive post-purchase experience is likely to very likely to overcome a poor pre-purchase experience.”

Nothing lasts forever but when it comes to customer satisfaction, you kind of hope it does. In summation, keeping the lines of communication open even after a transaction might be the best way to go the distance.

Via: Fresh Business Thinking, ForresterPsychology TodayIBM.

Here's How To Strengthen A Brand's Verbal Identity

On average businesses in the UK spend around £116,000 on “tone of voice” development, meaning that brands are just as interested in defining the way they sound as refining how they look.
One company that has aced verbal branding is Apple. A substantial portion of people on earth can identify the voice of Apple’s intelligent personal assistant Siri, whose original American female voice is borrowed from flesh and blood human and not whipped up in a computer. Apple recognised our need for human interaction, even if we’re only talking to our smartphone.
That reliance on smartphones is increasing; upcoming generations are leaning more into self-service than ever before. But, for more demanding queries or more expensive purchases, callers want to hear another person.
So what does this mean for the future of verbal customer service? “There’s so much noise in the world, and you’ve got a very small window to initiate a conversation with people. If people aren’t interested in what you have to say, they’ll go elsewhere,” Fred Perry’s brand director Rob Gaitt told Marketing Week.
Fully utilising the time a company interacts with customers after initiating a conversation is a hurdle for any enterprise, because no two callers are alike. Here are some ways to make a brand’s voice heard.

Making the call-centre standout

A caller emotionally connects with a brand the moment they pick up the phone to interact with an agent. No pressure. Robotic legacy tech just isn’t going to cut it anymore; callers want to know that if they’re making the jump to put receiver to ear — it’s going to be worth the time. Every word should be on point. “[It’s] 80% good writing principles and 20% [what] we can own in our writing style that makes us distinctive,” explained Jon Hawkins, former head of brand language at BT and founder of Honk to Marketing Week.

Get a head of brand language

Having someone’s single vision guide a brand’s voice isn’t a bad idea. Brand identity must stay consistent to maintain caller loyalty. Humans, man; we’re all far more comfortable with the familiar, and the best organisations know that.
“Sixty percent of global consumers with Internet access prefer to buy new products from a familiar brand rather than switch to a new brand,” says Nielsen.

Sophisticated analytics

After engagement, understanding the metrics behind what worked or didn’t between caller and agent is essential data in this algorithmic age. The future of CX means that content finds consumer and not the other way around, integrating the right technology into a verbal communication system is a great way to ensure that no discourse data is wasted.

The whole concept of “verbal identity” is still relatively new, it was only introduced into the marketing sphere some fifteen years ago by marketing consultant and author John Simmons, yet its become mighty useful for brand growth since. Its success could be attributed to the simple idea behind it; what do you want to say?
Via: Forbes, Marketing Week, Nielsen

Soon You’ll Have Control Of The $1.3 Trillion Communication Stack

  • The communication technology stack is connecting businesses with consumers in real time, and has been doing so since the invention of the telegram. The number of consumers who chose to talk to brands during 2015, by chat or phone, as part of their decision process is by far more common than the total amount of online checkouts that were made during the same year. Yet, the communication technology stack is a legacy, on premise solutions that are disconnected from the Internet. In a typical organisation 1 out of 1,000 employees have access to this technology. The remaining 999 team members can do nothing about your response time via chat, the average is 7 minutes, or your IVR tree having 6 questions that very few have the energy to answer.
  • This comes with implications for your business. Everyone that you employed over the last five years to manage your growing online audience has no access to your communication technology stack. Hence, if your online visitor chooses to call you, they are met by an IVR (Interactive Voice Response), which you probably haven’t changed for the last 10 years. If the same person chooses to complete an online checkout, they are delivered a digital experience where you change the content dynamically based on what you know about this visitor. This delivers two completely different brand experiences. One visitor will probably return, and it’s not the person who chose to call you. That consumer is already buying from someone else, and they are often purchasing a higher value product when compared to the pure online consumer. This is why they needed to ask a couple of questions as part of the transaction process.
  • The only reason why your organisation is ignoring these high value customers is because they cannot access the communication technology stack and constantly iterate towards a better consumer experience.
  • But this is changing, and the impact will be dramatic. Developers can today build tailored communication applications in 5 minutes using communication APIs like Twilio. The successful IPO of Twilio shows the recognition and massive need by companies to remove the communication stack from its silo and integrate it into the wider business. Twilio made it possible for developers to use the communication stack to solve problems that used to be unsolvable, like secure 2-way authentication. Twilio is used by more than 28,000 web developers on monthly basis who use the power of conversational technology interfaces.
  • The next step in this evolution is for non-developers to get easy access to the communication stack. Marketers and ecommerce professionals that want to make sure every single visitor gets a first class user experience. This will kill the traditional IVR once and for all, as soon as they can manage the conversational interfaces with the same simplicity as they manage the online forms and the online checkout process.
  • Have you ever met a consumer that likes to click 1 for “X”, click 2 for “Y”, and then if they return, you ask them the same questions again? Probably not. Who decides what in the $1,3 Trillion communication technology stack is about to change. If you still do not believe me, check out the growth of Twilio, you can now monitor it online: