As we all know, we’re living in a world of instant gratification. One clear indication of that fact is how customers relate to their chosen brands. Research shows that more than 80% of consumers rate an “immediate” response to a sales or marketing question as very important. Further, 90% say an immediate response is very important when the question relates to customer service. In an attempt to satisfy consumer demand and the corresponding thirst for immediacy, brands are turning to tactics like conversational marketing. This approach involves a one-on-one conversation between brands and customers. And though many brands are finding success in using it, there are some downsides. To provide a clearer picture of the pros and cons of conversational marketing, we wanted to highlight a few of the benefits and potential pitfalls below.
How conversational marketing works
To start, let’s add some context to the nuts and bolts of conversational marketing and how it works. In most cases, conversational marketing happens within messaging apps, including employee-staffed live chat platforms and even chatbots. These friendly bots employ artificial intelligence to simulate basic conversations that a human agent might have with a customer.
Whether it’s through channels run by humans or AI, the goal of conversational marketing is simple: Anticipate the plight of the customer in advance and react quickly to resolve any issues. As you can see, this approach is customer-focused as opposed to being sales- or company-focused like other traditional marketing strategies. In essence, it involves tailored product recommendations and connecting with customers on a much deeper level.
Advantages of conversational marketing
The most significant advantage of conversational marketing is that it forces the brand to focus on its customer. This includes analyzing everything from the entire customer journey to predicting the types of challenges or problems the customer may encounter and the goods or services that customers will be most (and least) interested in.
At least some of that information is seemingly low-hanging fruit. For example, nearly half of all respondents in a consumer-facing survey noted frustrations with websites that don’t provide details like the company’s address or its hours of business. In that same survey, 31% said finding services took too long, and 27% were frustrated that questions weren’t answered after the close of business. In each of those examples, a properly designed chatbot — deployed as part of a conversational marketing strategy — represents an easy and effective solution because it answers questions in real time at all times.
Conversational marketing also gives companies an opportunity to handle multiple customers at once. Because a chatbot is a computer program, there’s no limit to how many customers it can serve simultaneously. It’s a good idea to combine chatbots with chat-based human agents as well. These online agents can serve two purposes; they can answer rapid-fire questions from several customers at once, unlike phone agents who can only serve one customer at a time. Also, they can serve as a useful handoff when a customer’s question is too complex for the chatbot to handle, but might not require a lengthy phone call to resolve.
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Pitfalls of conversational marketing
Think conversational marketing sounds too good to be true? Before you sink your entire marketing budget into this one channel, just know that there are some definite disadvantages. Let’s start first with the live chat aspect. While many people find the idea of live chatting with a customer service or sales rep convenient, others struggle with the technical aspect and prefer to speak to someone in person or on the phone. There are also real concerns about internet access, particularly in rural parts of the country, where the ability to live chat may be spotty.
When it comes to chatbots and other AI-powered communication, there’s a fine line between success and frustration. The reality is that a chatbot is only as good as the data used to build it. If the bot lacks answers to common questions, it’s bound to leave the customer dissatisfied with the entire experience. Further, chatbots are a relatively new technology. As of now, they aren’t necessarily equipped to handle complex questions, meaning some customers will search elsewhere for a response.
At EGR, we understand that technology is only useful as a tool with a capable human driving its use. Every touchpoint with a customer is a critical interaction, where risk and reward must be evaluated. An ineffective chat bot or ill-trained chat agents will be far more damaging to a brand than no chat bot at all. As with all potential investments, brands should consider their ability to execute before diving in.
Real success requires solid customer engagement, and EGR International can help
As a strategic partner of our clients, we’ve seen firsthand what can happen when companies use conversational marketing to engage with customers. When done right, customers get the answers and information they want, when they want them. And that’s always a good thing. To learn more about what we do for businesses and how we can help yours, contact us today.