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We’ve all been in a situation where making conversation was difficult. Most recently, I was at a gathering of naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts to observe moths at the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, (yes, I have strange interests) and the moths were taking their own sweet time to make an appearance. The result? A lot of awkwardness and silence.

One of the naturalists then suggested that we introduce ourselves and talk about why we all were there and as cringeworthy as it sounded – it worked.

This situation often arises in the online world as well. Using an ice breaker in the online business world fills a void in communication that you have with your customers. It makes your brand more approachable and leaves the customer with a feeling that they understand your brand better.

Here are some of the ways you can break the ice and be more friendly to customers:

When they are lost

A typical failed search results will tell you “Oops we did not find this item” or “No results found.” Get just a little creative with this page, and you’ll be able to give your users alternate suggestions based on their search. Get a little more imaginative, you can place a feedback column where customers can enter their email details and provide information on what they are looking for. Amazon’s search feedback options let you do this with ease, prompting you for a bit more information depending on whether you choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and even redirecting you to their help section in case of confusion.

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To find out what they really think of you

In initial days, when booking a ticket on redBus was a novelty,  I got great kicks out of filling in a very simple feedback form that would I receive in my inbox, the day after my journey.  Redbus ensured that there were three to four areas to be rated and gave me the option of entering my own suggestions and complaints. Now I can’t say, I fill in the forms as diligently as I used to, but I still make an effort to give basic feedback, especially if I had a really good or bad experience. Seeing minor tweaks and improvements on the buses over time is a sure sign that someone is listening, reading and acting on my feedback.

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When they need an instant fix

Chat option on your website has become a convenient way for customers to reach you rather than finding out your number, call, listen to and press various IVRS options to reach a customer service representative. Chat boxes can request some basic user information before the chat begins, or move directly into solving concerns. An in-app feature for your product allows you to pop up notifications or chat within your app. Thus, reducing the number of emails you send to your customers, making it an immediate and effective ice breaker.

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When they want to spread the love

Successful brands have shown us that one of the best ways to start conversations is via social channels such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. These social media platforms act as a medium for customers to share how they experienced your brand and to send you some love when they are truly happy with a product or service.

A great example is GoPro, who have a following of close to 4 million followers on Instagram. The brand calls out photos shot using the GoPro and also encourages their users to do the same with a simple link. The comments thread under these photos becomes a great place for other Instagrammers to start conversations, and for your brand to interact with them.

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What are the best ice-breakers and conversation starters that have worked for you or that you have seen brands using so far? Write to me at [email protected] with your comment and thoughts.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.