In the past, – and I’m talking 10, 15 years ago – automation started as a way to speed things up and to help businesses run more efficiently.What we are now seeing is that automation has created an invisible barrier between the business and its customers. Automation, in essence, acts as a gatekeeper.
And, let’s face it, we’ve all been caught in an automated phone support or chat system that gives us no answers or asks us to fill out an annoying contact form. This is exactly the type of automation we’ve all learned to despise as the antithesis of person-to-person contact.
The good news is as businesses start to realise that a human touch in the customer journey is critical, we will soon see a shift from automation being a gatekeeper to being a facilitator.Here are four tips for successful customer engagement in the software sales process that I’ve seen work time and time again.
1.Build Relationships Through Technology
Let me start with a question: How do you build a digital relationship?
It’s part technology and part intimacy. But you can’t let technology do all the work as you run the risk of engaging customers like a robot, which neglects the human side of relationship building. Adding intimacy into the equation is critical in building trusted relationships and it’s even more important in a digital world.
The first couple of years in a startup, you’ll find that teams will be highly focused on customer acquisition. This is a great time to think about how to bring a human touch into your customer engagement activities.
As your team scales, churn and customer lifetime value keeps the business going. And, while the most visible benefit of this relationship is the continuation of subscriptions, you shouldn’t see it as a pure play transaction. Instead, see it as an opportunity to build out a deeper relationship with your customers.
Think of the ways your team can map out each stage of the customer journey. Try to insert human touch points along the way to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for customers. For instance, onboard each customer with a welcome video, send emails signed by the founder, or even call your customer and ask them for their feedback.
Every minute you invest in building relationships increases your retention rate, drives your revenue and, most importantly, creates happy, loyal customers.
2.Appreciate The Importance Of Authenticity
I’ve come to value authentic relationships as one of the most indefinable, invaluable, and unquantifiable elements of a business.
And, you should too.
“People listen with their ears, but they hear with their emotions. Our job is to get people to stop listening and start hearing,” – David Neagle
To better with your customers, you’ve probably already created workflows, built chatbots, and created webinars.
As a SaaS business, connecting allows you to cultivate a relationship; a relationship both you and your customers will profit from. One of my main observations in this arena is that, more often than not, automation drives disconnection, especially when the main customer relationship is via tech.
Scripted, automated approaches increase your reach, but don’t really help you connect with your customers.
How do you build an authentic brand if your customers don’t actually speak to a human?
It’s rather simple: Define the brand experience everywhere. This is an opportunity to go back to the desired brand behaviours and core values. Take a fresh look at how you want to engage with customers. It allows your team and all the tech that sits between you and your customers to be more than just another layer of SaaS.
Authenticity can’t be faked. Stay true to your company’s values and be sure to inject its personality into all touch points. Why? Because customer’s picked you for what you stood for and the brand experience that was promised.
3.Engage To Continue The Conversation
Emotions fuel customer choices before, during, and after purchase.
Customers can only connect emotionally with your business if they have an avenue, or multiple avenues, to do so.
In the SaaS industry, finding creative ways to engage in meaningful conversations that help build trust with prospects is paramount to keep the conversation going.
I call these creative engagements or the +1 approach. The +1 is something different you haven’t tried before. t can be a new channel or a different interaction that might surprise your customers.
The first sale is just an initial step in building a successful long-term relationship with any given customer. This requires a nurturing strategy that keeps customers engaged at every stage of the journey.
“If we do not engage with our clients in a real, personal way, then we are just another vendor — and vendors are easily replaceable with better, cheaper options. However, clients are much less likely to consider replacing people with whom they have real relationships.” – Neil Patel
Make customer connections as easy, seamless, and comfortable as possible. Having these avenues in place and ready to be distributed will make your communication efforts more effective, thus leading to stronger post-purchase customer engagement.
4.Engaging For The Long Term
Onboarding and customer success are two essential facets of any marketing and customer retention strategy.
So, what happens after your customer has made a purchase?
One of the areas I notice most products failing in is in the onboarding phase. In the SaaS industry, onboarding is one of the most critical actions to take in retaining customers, yet it is one of the hardest to truly perfect.
“Trust is built with customers when you aren’t oriented towards yourself.” - Cat Williams-Treloar
The SaaS business, especially when it comes to enterprise deals, is largely relational and relies on human interaction. I hear time and time again that senior executives are focussed on the wins and rarely involved in the onboarding process. This means that when it comes time to renew the contract, 12 to 24 months later, the relationship with key stakeholders is lost because nobody took the time to nurture it.
I’ve heard similar challenges with SaaS products targeting smaller businesses where the onboarding process didn’t help the decision maker take action or see the product’s true value. The risk of not having a beautiful nurturing stream is churn.
To engage for the long term, make time to welcome your customers, answer their doubts, and use all the customer conversations you’ve had thus far to proactively help your buyers. Capitalize on your customer’s excitement and make a connection within the first 24 hours and maintain it in the weeks and months to come to prevent any momentum you’ve from dwindling away. Being present builds credibility, sets the right expectations, and gives customers security that they’re making the right decision in purchasing your product.
Engaging your customers with a human touch will help you build a competitive advantage and one that allows you to learn faster and smarter than your competitors.
Humanisation helps brands form real human connections with their customers. If you’d like to know more about how we can help, get in touch directly today.
Cat Williams-Treloar founded Humanisation, a Human-Centered Marketing Consultancy. Humanisation was born to help startups make a human impact in a digital world as they Go-To-Market across APAC.