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A Valentine’s Day guide to better conversations with customers

These three lessons in love languages can help you woo and keep your buyers.

Ruth Zive

March 01, 20245 minutes

paper hearts, symbolizing better customer conversations for better relationships
This article was originally published in Fast Company on February 9, 2024

It may sound like a cliché, but every strong relationship is founded on good communication, especially meaningful and engaging conversations. This is true in our personal and professional lives, and it’s just as true when it comes to building better relationships with customers. With romance — and, let’s face it, consumerism — in the air for Valentine’s Day, it’s worth taking in some love lessons to ensure your customers stay with you for the long haul.

Lesson #1: Meet them where they are

People who are looking for a relationship tend to get a lot of questions from their friends and family, perhaps none more dreaded than “Are you on the apps?” While Hinge, OkCupid, and Tinder can be frustrating at times, the truth is that most couples these days meet on dating apps and sites. 

Similarly, you should be operating on the channels where your customers actually want to engage with you. Based on the data in LivePerson’s State of Customer Conversations 2024 report, the vast majority of consumers (80%) say they are more likely to purchase from businesses that connect their interactions across phone, email, and messaging platforms. 

So when it comes to better conversations with customers, the question “Are you on the apps?” means your business should think long and hard about how well you’re enabling conversations on Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and even your own mobile app — all of the places where your customers actually spend their time and want to get to know you. There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but everyone knows that some fishing spots are better than others.

Lesson #2: Pay attention

Nothing ruins a first date like someone who only talks about themself or never asks you any questions. But a lack of attention isn’t just a red flag early on, it’s also a huge contributor to unhappiness in long-term relationships. 

According to research that went viral in 2023 about “attention bids,” people in relationships make tiny conversational requests throughout the day. “Could you get me a glass of water?” is one, and “Look at this piglet on TikTok!” is another example. When you ignore these bids for your attention, you’re slicing away at your relationship one paper cut at a time.

The same holds true for your customer conversations. In the State of Customer Conversations 2024 report, two out of three consumers say hold times matter more to them this year than they did a year ago. Also, 77% won’t wait on hold past 15 minutes, and 5% won’t wait on hold under any circumstance. Imagine losing 5% of your customers just because you don’t provide them with an alternative to old-school phone calls! To maintain connection with your customers, you can’t keep them waiting. With today’s technology, that’s as easy as providing a combination of human and AI assistance on the channels that matter most. 

Lesson #3: KISS (keep it simple, stupid!)

With credit to the U.S. Navy, which supposedly codified this design principle, things tend to go best if they’re kept simple — and relationships are no different. Your customers are busy people with complicated lives. They want to come home to someone who supports them and does not add frustration to their lives. Because AI is becoming such an important part of customer service, the automated experiences you deliver to your customers should be just as supportive and helpful, never aggravating.

While they may still be a bit skeptical, customers are certainly not opposed to AI and automation — as long as it’s quick to respond, accurate, and reliable. About 73% of consumers say they’re more likely to purchase from a company whose AI is supervised and managed by human agents to transfer to as needed, and 68% say the same if a company’s AI limits bias to create more equal experiences for everyone. 

Here’s where everyone agrees: Regardless of the industry you’re in, focusing on the most common kinds of customer conversations can help you help the most people most efficiently. This means automating the responses to simple questions, like “Is this product in stock?” “Can you activate my device?” and “When is my shipment coming?” to make everyday interactions as painless as possible. 

A love story case study

Of course, becoming your customers’ perfect match is easier said than done. One company that has successfully gone down this road is The RealReal, the world’s largest authenticated luxury reseller. Consumer experience leaders at The RealReal knew that their customers, who were using the platform to buy and sell high-end clothing, bags, and jewelry, expected high-end service. The AI-powered messaging experience they created — and which you could even call the invention of “conversational consignment” — exemplifies how to live out the lessons above.

So what did The RealReal do to make customers fall in love? First, they shifted 40% of their contact volume to new channels like Apple Messages for Business. The RealReal also prioritized answering customers quickly, decreasing response time to less than a minute on voice channels and less than two minutes on messaging. By giving customers a faster and more convenient experience through AI tools — all while maintaining a white glove level of service — The RealReal achieved a 95% customer satisfaction score. 

Meeting customers where they were, paying attention to what they needed, and keeping it simple yielded real results for The RealReal. Looking at the outcomes from a higher level, all of these changes to their customer experience were aimed at better conversations and communication—and as the facts and figures prove, better relationships. These are the kinds of things that make people fall in love with a brand, and stay in love. 

If effective communication and conversations are the foundation of any successful relationship, then your bond with your customers is only as strong as your customer experience program. You may love your customers, but if you aren’t making meaningful connections that stand the test of time, can you really say they love you back?