Creating more human connections in the B2B space has become a focus for modern-day businesses – including their sales teams. It’s what builds a strong customer experience and fosters meaningful relationships your customers and future customers. And it requires that you straddle the human/machine line well.
Amidst the sea of robotic emails and chatbots, our guest on this episode of The Customer Expereince Podcast is working to humanize the website experience. Because our buyers come to us much better educated than they did just a few years ago, our websites have to deliver. And one significant opportunity is in customer chat windows.
While the addition of AI and machine learning promises increasingly powerful chat bots, too often these days our automated processes at the top of a sales funnel deliver a suboptimal experience and even deter leads from further engagement. Having another human ready to guide your customers can increase lead generation and sales acceleration.
Nelson Bruton, President at Interchanges, a digital marketing company in Jacksonville, Florida, that specializes in B2B sales and marketing, shares very specific practices to increase sales leads and improve your customer experience with live chat on B2B websites. Whether your website chat is completely human, bot-led with handoffs to humans, all-bot, or still in the planning stages, you’ll pick up some useful advice here to improve your customers’ chat experiences.
Good Feelings and Good Experiences
How do your customers feel when they do business with you? How are your clients feeling? These are questions Nelson and his team ask themselves every day. Check out the video below to see how that simple question changed Interchanges’ client experience …
Nelson talks about how Interchanges thought they had CX figured out with a hardcore approach to data and analytics. Everything was measured and dashboarded, but something still wasn’t quite right.
“We had all the numbers and we still had retention issues,” he explains. “And then our CEO asked us to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and ask: ‘Are they happy working with us?‘”
How do customers feel doing business with your company? If they’re happy, keep up the good work. If they’re not, there are many approaches to improve that experience for them. The important thing is making sure they feel heard and understood (a common theme on the podcast).
My discussion with Nelson covers how we can improve our customer experience by being there for our customers. Our topics include:
- How to generate more B2B sales opportunities
- When and how to get human when implementing website chat
- Why data and analytics aren’t enough to winning, keeping, and expanding accounts
- How listening to your customers improves your business
- What friction is doing to slowly kill your business
Enjoy our conversation!
Setting Up Your B2B Live Chat To Dramatically Accelerate Sales
The Customer Experience Podcast is available in your preferred podcast player. Find it and subscribe here …
Each episode recording is also embedded in its companion blog post (like this one!). See them all right here.
Want live chat best practices? Listen to my conversation with Nelson Bruton right now …
Analytics Are Only Part of the Customer Experience Puzzle
The data and metrics associated with customers such as NPS, CSAT, and even LTV are valuable, but they only capture aspects of the overall experience. With nearly two decades working in the digital marketing space, Nelson has found direct client feedback to be the most valuable piece of the puzzle. Rarely can scoring systems and dashboards tell you exactly how every customer feels. But you know who can? Your customer.
Don’t just look at the scores. Look at the comments. And follow up on them. Reach out proactively and ask customers for feedback to get ideas about how to improve. Talk about customer feedback in more meetings. Once Nelson and the team at Interchanges started making the improvements their customers needed, their retention rates rose.
Many of the themes they work on create a more personal and human experience. In the clip below, Nelson shares three specific ways they’re reducing friction and being more human with their current and future clients in the B2B space …
His three recommendations for quick wins:
- Humanizing email with video (totally not scripted, I might add) to make more meaningful connections. Nelson agrees with me, the BombBomb team, and the BombBomb community that video email makes your customers feel heard and understood and, therefore, produces better results.
- Humanizing the chat experience. Interchanges has found that customers often ask if they’re chatting with a human. What happens when you have humans waiting? A positive experience for your customers!
- Using LinkedIn to connect with customers and future customers. Making that connection provides another channel of communication and helps you get to know that person. Be sure to do prospecting on LinkedIn the right way, though!
Better Communication Is The Key To Successful Relationships
“The fundamentals of business have not changed over the years, especially in the B2B space. People will always buy from people,” explains Nelson. “That relationship is key.” But what has changed is the way people come together. It’s continually evolving.
As he explains in the clip below, adapting how your company communicates is what sets you apart from competitors …
Nelson follows up with how, if done correctly, a chat window on your website draws leads into the top of your B2B sales funnel. It has a dramatic effect on moving people who are “just browsing” to actively engaging. It’s an easy way to encourage a “hand raise.”
But Nelson cautions against trying to set up a B2B chatbot to manage responses. Even in 2019, it requires a significant amount of time to do well, even if it’s got machine learning or AI built in (and especially if it doesn’t).
We need our customers and future customers to feel seen and heard. We need to anticipate their needs and wants. And it’s hard to lay all that out in advance and program it for a good experience. So, if you’re going to deploy a chatbot, you can’t do it in a quick, cheap, and easy way without a cost. That’s changing rapidly and doesn’t necessarily apply to a more transactional sale.
In addition, people can typically differentiate when they’re speaking to a bot or a human (which is one of the more common questions asked in a chat). Check out why live chats are a great place to start building relationships with people in this next clip …
Nelson notes that there are a variety of moments when live chat isn’t the best solution. Short sales cycles. Simpler products and services. Low price points. These all supported well with artificially intelligent or even automated chatbots.
But if you’ve got longer sales cycles, complex products and services, higher price points, live chat often wins right now over chatbots for increasing your inbound leads, increasing the speed of your sales process, and qualifying and convert more leads.
When a customer enters a chat, making a meaningful connection means (you guessed it) humanizing that experience. Having real people on the other side of that chat provides customers with a broader range of knowledge, a more nuanced approach to answers, and a signal that they matter to your company.
The work you now do to equip and train humans, collect their feedback, collect customer feedback, and collect feedback from salespeople who get the handoffs will set you up for a better chatbot deployment in the future. AI and machine learning will be better fed and equipped to carry that experience forward.
B2B Live Chat Tips and Best Practices
How to Staff Your Live Chat
If you want to have chat on your website, you’ve got several options – all-bot, all-human, bot-led, and some cheap or even free.
Many of the B2B sales and marketing professionals Nelson works with staff their chat with their own inside sales teams during normal business hours, then outsource it after hours.
He explains the pros and cons of a few different approaches in the video clip below …
Don’t Try To Close Over Live Chat
Nelson advises that closing a sales opportunity be done offline – not in a chat. When you’ve got someone engaged with you in a live chat, you’ve got a very interested person. You’re addressing their needs and concerns. You don’t want to lose them if they have to suddenly leave or if your sales rep pushes too hard and chases them out of the chat.
Instead, he suggests scheduling a demo or sales call as early in the conversation as possible. The goal of chat is to qualify a person who’s raised their hand and move them forward – not to bring all of your collected wisdom and expertise to the chat experience directly.
Check out some best practice advice here …
Human Touch vs Tech Touch
“Are you a bot or are you a real person?” It’s a common and important question in a website chat. The fact that people can’t tell says something. The gap between humans and machines here is closing quickly.
The fact that they want to know says something, too. That human-to-human connection and relationship is what makes live chat so powerful, especially for a high-value sale, a complex sale, or a long sales cycle.
If your business is more transactional – with a low cost and short sales cycle – a human-staffed live chat may be too expensive to be useful.
Nelson addresses the human touch and these cost/benefit factors in the video clip below …
Use the Proactive Chat Features
If you have a chat available, make sure it’s working proactively for you. If someone is on your site, the chat should greet them so they know someone is available to help.
Think of a department store–the sales clerks aren’t pushy, they just let you know they’re available if you have a question.
Check out the clip below on why this is so effective and driving inbound leads …
Respond Quickly and Specifically
When a chat transcript gets sent to one of your sales team members, a quick and personal follow up is key to turning chats into revenue.
If a chat is responded to within an hour, that person is six times more likely to properly enter your sales process. Within 10 or 15 minutes is obviously much better. It sets a good precedent for your potential business relationship.
Response time seems like an obvious one, but it remains low-hanging fruit and a clear best practice, as Nelson explains …
Two Final Tips
1 To remove friction and increase opportunities, let your website visitors start chatting without entering information. Lead with value and engagement; the results will follow.
2 Have a plan for when you don’t have an answer. Nelson says this is the perfect time to get contact info and promise a follow up from an expert team member.
Get more ideas, recommendations, and success stories to create and deliver a better experience for your customers and future customers.
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Why Subscribe To The Customer Experience Podcast?
For Past Episodes Like …
- “Why Customer Experience Is The Only Differentiator Left” with David Cancel (CEO and founder, Drift)
- “Balancing AI, Automation, and Human Relationships” with Samantha Stone (CMO and founder, Marketing Advisory Network)
- “Why Friction Is A Customer Experience Killer” with Brian Gilman (VP of Product Marketing, Vonage)
- “Brand Legacy Is A Human Thing (Not A Corporate Thing)” with Kristy Krueger (VP of Marketing, Revel Health)
- Scroll through every episode right here
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- Kristin Messerli – founder and CEO at Cultural Outreach
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