Back and forth dialogue, not one way.
We can’t all be passive listeners. There is nothing more annoying than that a friend of yours who loves to hear the sound of his or her own voice so much, that they are oblivious to your attempts to get a word in.
So why is it that businesses think it is okay to go and on the same way? Having to be at the receiving end of scores of emails and promotional material eventually leaves customers feeling bombarded, with a distaste for that brand. It is important to keep the communication channel open, enabling customers to respond to your communication immediately and reach out to you when they need help. Business’ can do this via emails with short surveys, social media channels and by getting in touch personally with customers who have been with them since the beginning.
Someone actually listening to you (not a machine)
As someone who has been called a good listener by many, I can tell you this: people love it when they feel you are listening to understand and not just to respond. Whether it’s asking them a question or smiling at the right moment, listening is a major turn on.
Isn’t this what you’d look for when you are communicating with a business? Someone who hears your problems and concerns, praise etc. and is able to understand, respond with empathy and act on it? Well, me too. It would be a defining moment if brands listened to what I said about them (on social media or elsewhere) and then replied back to me! It’s important for business’ to especially reach out to users who may end up becoming potential influencers.
A fun conversation should always be peppered with a little rib tickling humour and banter. If a business is just reaching out to you with something that makes you laugh, you are twice as likely to respond, right?
Perhaps my earliest memory of this is on Google’s (now defunct) Orkut. A server error resulted in the message “Bad, bad server. No donut for you.” Orkut made us laugh, distracted us from the error and strategically anthropomorphised their server, suggesting it had a life of its own that made it perform these crude actions that they could do little but apologise about.
Another brilliant one from Google was the above comic that appeared on their Calendar app when I had no meeting invites – it made me chuckle and breathe a sigh of relief knowing my day was free! After all, who doesn’t like to laugh?
As humans, you and I often have a psychological trait of listening and responding to people based on how they make us feel, rather than what they are saying. This can be dangerous because you may dismiss something relevant – because you are annoyed or irritated with them.
Simple example: let’s assume you are trying to call your cellular service provider to complain about how your balance has dipped with no warning because of data roaming. After what seems like eons of listening and pressing various buttons, you reach a human and they insist you speak in a language you are not comfortable with. You are obviously going to be too irritated to have a successful exchange.
For a business, making sure the customer is comfortable is essential before beginning a conversation. The bottom line is that business’ need to know their customers before they interact with them. What channel are they most responsive on? When was the last time they interacted with you?