It’s nothing fancy, it’s just conversation.

That’s the theme of the short but fascinating linked article below. And what it promises really resonates with me, not just as a consumer, but especially as someone involved in running a small on-line business.

We do a lot of comparative and competitive research in our business. And we ask for a lot of feedback from our customers and business partners. We don’t do it as a box-ticking exercise. We do it because we’ve learned to our significant economic benefit that feedback, good or bad, is vital to being able to adapt and evolve your business to keep pace with customer behaviour, their expectations and to attract and retain their loyalty.

And as consumers, we’re a delightfully fickle bunch. We demand choice but then we complain about too much choice to be able to make rapid or confident decisions. (Flooding customers with too much choice is a common and surprisingly increasing mistake in business. There are some excellent insights and tips from marketing expert, Kim Arnold, in one of our recent blogs on elXtr.)

We want to be able to go online, click, discover and buy, but then we don’t like too many clicks. And that’s before we even get to the frustrating stage of discovering that what we want isn’t in stock or that we want to ask questions that simply aren’t built into the online user journey.

So how can you avoid an inflexible and impersonal online sales experience?

We built live chat functionality into our online DIY legal and business solutions hub, elXtr, a little while back. It’s been a really interesting exercise to consider the types of conversations taking place there and why some times, our customers seem to want to use it, rather than self-help themselves entirely independently. Our live chat function is manned by our customer service team who are quite happy to suggest that they pick up the phone to the customer and take conversations further, where they feel that would be helpful.

Because what the live chat function has shown us, quite starkly, is that keeping business personal and maintaining a flexible experience that isn’t all automated and hands-off, is the best way to make customers feel as though they are being taken care of, and that they matter. Which means they are more likely to want us to help them more and stay loyal to what we offer.

In short, most of us still want, and really value, conversation.

And yet until now, much of the genuinely automated chat-bot technology available doesn’t yet deliver that conversational, flexible experience.

Sage look like they may be set to change that complaint. Their recent innovation in financial services, which essentially aims to blend the best of the online, automated approach with a conversational, customisable experience, promises to make quality conversations online far more of an attainable, affordable reality.

I’d rather like to meet Sage’s Pegg. At elXtr, we’re always slightly obsessed with making our customer experience better in every way and for everyone involved, including our great customer service team. If we’re now going to be able to manage more online conversations in the flexible, sympathetic way that we believe they need to happen, then I’m all for what Pegg is making possible.

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