Thursday, December 1 2022

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It is far too late for our industry to reconsider the way we think about conversational commerce. In speaking with many CX leaders, it became apparent that the term itself has very intimidating connotations.

And I get it: “conversational commerce” was originally coined by Uber’s Chris Messina (the inventor of the hashtag) in 2015 to reflect rapid advances in personalization technologies, especially in mobile environments.

It was adopted soon after by Facebook and Apple to represent their most advanced conversational AI and bot innovations. Suddenly, “conversational commerce” seemed out of reach for the vast majority of customer service and support managers, something only available in the land of big tech (or pizza emojis).

It’s time to bring the term back, on our terms.

Bring back conversational commerce

As I’ve written before, now is the time for CX leaders to play a bigger role within their company’s leadership structure. And one of the main ways to do that is to showcase CX’s ability to generate revenue. We’ve seen how customer service and support is often the driver of customer loyalty and lifetime value. The reason? That’s because great CX is often driven by high-quality, one-on-one conversations between a brand and its customers.

It’s within these conversations that CX managers can also find new opportunities to generate more revenue for their business, in the form of new sales. That, to me, is the real meaning of conversational commerce.

In my most recent book, Experience is Everything, we offer the following as a new definition of “conversational commerce”:

Conversational commerce harnesses the power of dialogue to deliver a personalized, consultative shopping experience that ultimately drives sales and revenue. Customer service chat and the use of messaging are essential channels for conversational commerce in the digital environment, as they enable your human specialists to replicate the individual experience of in-store sales associates by allowing them to interact with customers during the buying process. , provide immediate assistance and offer relevant recommendations while fostering relationships.

Related Article: 3 Ways CX Can Become a Business Strategy Driver

Applying the definition of conversational commerce in practice

This definition provides a foundation upon which CX managers can create practical and impactful conversational commerce programs that make it easy for CX agents to become consultative partners in your customers’ buying journeys.

Here are four examples of applying this definition of conversational commerce in practice:

  • Make upsell recommendations. A single item naturally lends itself to additions or upgrades. Full-price or premium items may attract a given buyer based on what you learn about their preferences or purchase history. Or you have items on sale, clearance or promotion. By equipping your customer service agents with this information, any customer interaction can easily turn into an opportunity to generate an additional purchase.
  • Offer complementary products. When a customer asks about a product they’re considering, ready to buy, or has already purchased, your agents should proactively recommend additional items that go well with it; or make it easier for them to suggest “products you might like” by giving them visibility into system-based recommendations.
  • Provide alternative options. When items are sold out, out of stock, delayed or otherwise unavailable, ask your agents to suggest comparable items that may appeal to the buyer.
  • Turn returns into exchanges. Returns happen. But you can turn returns into exchanges by helping with sizing or suggesting other products they might prefer.

Related article: Immersive commerce comes of age in 2022

Help agents build a relationship with customers

Incorporating these cross-selling and up-selling moves into support conversations is an effective way to further leverage the relationships agents constantly build with customers. And you don’t have to be Apple or Facebook to be successful! For our book Experience is Everything, we interviewed Jeff Weiser, former CMO of Shopify and Shutterstock, about his investments in conversational commerce at the latter company, and he had this to say about his experience:

At Shutterstock, our contact center manager saw an opportunity for the care team to function as a quasi-inside sales team. Agents could ask probing questions to get a deeper understanding of the customer’s needs, then offer other tools or solutions that would benefit them while increasing their lifetime value to the company. In the first year after this shift from customer service as a cost center to customer service as a revenue generator, we quadrupled the revenue we could attribute directly to this channel. So now we weren’t just improving CSAT or Net Promoter in the hopes that satisfaction or loyalty would pay off in the long run. We could actually see the short-term impact on the bottom line.

For CX to thrive in the NOW Customer era, CX leaders must uncover new areas of growth that are already within reach. The best customer service teams are already engaging customers in productive, personalized, and empathetic conversations.

They should also have the opportunity to become some of your company’s top salespeople. This is what we should say when discussing “conversational trading” and why it needs to be a core part of any NOW CX program.

Daniel Rodriguez is an experienced marketer, entrepreneur, family man, and musician who uses daily meditation to deal with life’s intense moments. He is currently CMO of Simplr, where he leads a team redefining the way brands deliver customer service.

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