Every touchpoint a customer has with a brand during his or her journey is deeply personal now—and brands need emotionally resonant messages to make strong connections with their buyers. Whether customers engage through mobile, web, chat, phone, or email, they expect each touchpoint to be personalized and relevant.
So, the question for marketers is this: how do we become fluent at conversing with our customers in a way that creates real connections? According to Sergio Restrepo, the secret lies in “being human, talking human, acting human.”
I spoke marketer-to-marketer with Sergio, university professor and Lionbridge VP of Global Marketing Services, about how successful companies are becoming more human in their messaging—and are thus building emotional bridges to their customers. He’s developed a simple recipe that mixes what he calls “authenticity characteristics” with human attributes and inspires brands to channel a genuine voice and forge emotional connections with their customers.
- Demonstrate you are listening
As digital marketers, we have seemingly unlimited data on our buyers. We know the websites they visit, the comments they leave on social sites, and the searches that drive their daily digital journeys. Using this data, Sergio says, should enable us “to produce more relevant conversations.” He says, “companies that can take that data and turn it into useful conversations are successful. Those that don’t will fall behind their peers.” Marketers will need to shift their conversations from general audiences to specific people.
For example, take social media. Social media listening tools can give you a better understanding of how people perceive your company and brand—what they’re saying about it and how it makes them feel. It’s up to you to use the information you uncover to engage with customers in a more personalized and meaningful way, addressing their feedback, concerns, and interests in the conversations you have with them.
- Be service-oriented
Customer call centers are a thing of the past—and integrated service centers are the future. Service centers, says Sergio, have evolved to take a unified, customer-centric view of a buyer and all his or her interactions with a company, whether via social media, telephone, or email. Is the person on the phone the same person who voiced a complaint on Twitter? Today’s best service centers know the answer to that question.
“The most successful brands have service centers that impart a real sense of trying to help a buyer,” explains Sergio. One brand that does this particularly well? Zappos, which was one of the first centers to liberate its team from metrics focused on call length in favor of providing excellent service.
- Speak their language
One of the more obvious but challenging ways to create emotional resonance is to converse with your customer in his or her native language at every touchpoint. “Gone are the days when you might ask a user in Japan to register for an event in a native language and then send a confirmation email in English,” says Sergio. “That doesn’t work.” Analyze your multi-market customer journey for broken touchpoints.
From Sergio’s vantage point working with a cross-section of global companies, he sees firsthand that brands need every touchpoint in the customer journey needs to be localized—from online browsing of product content to social listening to real-time chat to over-the-phone interpretation.
If you are a digital marketer, you are familiar with the trend toward conversational marketing. Making it easier and faster to engage with customers is a central mandate for all marketers. Do we need someone to complete a form to get service? Should they fill in a form if we already have their contact details? Do you really need all those fields in that form? How can technology speed up user validation so we can get to the point faster?
- Have empathy
The first four ingredients in Sergio’s recipe for success were listening, service, localization, and simplification—what he dubs “authenticity characteristics.” The last four are human attributes: empathy, thoughtfulness, regret, and detail-orientation.
As brands increasingly strive to offer memorable experiences for their customers, they need to view their service through the eyes of their customers. As Glen Hartman of Accenture Interactive wrote in AdWeek, “We should broaden the definition of success to include what the customer would see as success: helping them achieve their goals in the moment.” To do that, brands need to understand what a customer’s goals are throughout the many “micro-moments” that compose her buying journey.
- Be thoughtful
There’s a difference between practicing emotional marketing by accident, on occasion, and doing it by design as part of a well-crafted marketing strategy. Sergio and I talked about how the companies that are most successful in making human-to-human connections are doing so by design. An example that springs to mind for me is Mastercard, under the direction of Chief Marketing Officer Raja Rajamannar. The company’s evolution of its “Priceless” campaign puts the consumer front-and-center, positioning the brand itself as a supporting player in each customer’s daily life.
A MarketingWeek article once cited Paul Trueman, head of marketing for MasterCard UK and Ireland, saying: “MasterCard is evolving from a brand that celebrates Priceless moments to one that enables Priceless experiences, thereby bringing additional benefits to choosing to use MasterCard and building further emotional engagement with consumers.”
Here at Lionbridge, we recently launched a new blog series called Meet the Pride Worldwide, where readers can get to know Lionbridge on a more human level. Our company is powered by a large and powerful network of real people with relentless passion for getting the job done. By showcasing individual profiles, we hope to demonstrate that behind every translation, every project, there is a person.
“When it goes wrong, apologize”, says Sergio. Mistakes happen. Acknowledge them when you make them, and outline what you’re doing to ensure something similar won’t happen in the future. Sergio recognizes that “it is a challenge for brands, and especially enterprise brands, to shift their mindset to be empathetic and straightforward and acknowledge that they are imperfect,” but doing so is essential in creating the context for an ongoing conversation.
- Pay attention to details
Do you notice the Google Doodles? These are customized daily by country to personalize the visitor experience. Do you appreciate reading your own name on your coffee cup? Could you send an email to your customers on their birthdays? What about on the anniversary of their becoming a customer? Details matter and build goodwill with individual customers. Paying attention to them can separate you from the rest of the pack.
Sergio’s recipe helps companies create compelling stories that build a connection with customers no matter how they like to interact, what language they speak, or what country they’re from. At Lionbridge, we help you in this journey toward making human-to-human connections. We speak your customers’ languages over the phone, on chat, when they are browsing the web, and more.
Current and evolving marketing technology will continue to help us marketers gather information and generate useful workflows in more efficient ways. This should help us strive to do what we can do best—be human.