How to attract and retain customers from home: the evolution of AI conversational marketing during Corona

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Digitization – on the agenda of most companies for years and for many until recently still a buzzword. Necessary investments in digital transformation were often put off by companies, organizations and the state. The turning point was COVID-19. The pandemic has turned the world upside down and posed new challenges for both B2B and B2C companies: Meetings take place virtually from one day to the next, employees are available to customers from home office and processes have to be contactless yet customer-oriented. What was out of the question previously has become inevitable.  A push towards digitization, which is also confirmed by the latest McKinsey study: Consumers and businesses have pushed towards the introduction of digital technologies – what would normally have taken about five years was implemented within eight weeks. But how are companies dealing with this? 

Retain customers from home

In many companies, working from home office has been introduced at short notice as a result of the pandemic. Depending on the degree of digitization, the transition from office to home office has proved to be difficult.  A lack of infrastructure, necessary childcare facilities or short-time work led to temporarily absent employees.

At the same time, there were a number of customer requests from customers in many sectors. The tourism and event sectors, for example, were particularly hit hard by the crisis, with travelling and events being restricted during the lockdown. Uncertainties led to countless customer enquiries: Can the flight be transferred? How will the money for the cancelled holiday be reimbursed by the tour operator? Is there an alternative date for the cancelled concert?  

This was an enormous challenge for customer support, which in many companies was overwhelmed by a lack of capacity and efficient technology. For some airlines and tour operators, the overload of requests led them to switching off their own hotline and restricting the customer’s communication channels. From a marketing point of view, this should not happen under any circumstances. After all, marketing is not a one-way communication, but dialogue to get to know the customer better, understand the needs, draw attention to the brand and build a relationship.

Image of smiling woman using cellphone and laptop while sitting

Lead generation in times of crisis

A chatbot with AI is an ideal way to maintain customer contact, expand the relationship and generate new leads in times of crisis despite social distancing. Of course, human contact cannot be replaced, but through innovative technologies, companies can get closer to customers and prospects than ever before. Artificial intelligence enables fast and personalized communication in real-time. Using a predefined process, the chatbot can analyse and evaluate the data and react to individual customer requirements – and thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP), using natural language in direct dialogue. In unpredictable times, the stability that a chatbot offers through a continuous performance level and scalability are crucial for success. 

Conversational marketing is the ideal field of application for bots: companies give users on their website the opportunity to contact and communicate directly with them – regardless of time and place. By using live chats where employees or chatbots are available for a digital conversation to answer customers’ questions via messenger services, integrations with popular applications or other tools. Customers can use chatbots to start a conversation in real-time and easily get the desired information without having to click through countless sub-pages. A chatbot on the website removes the restraint to contact a company, as the consumer feels more anonymous and can close the chat any time. This is the best starting point for generating qualified leads, as the prospective customer initiates the conversation. The chatbot offers an authentic experience by giving insights into products or services, individually tailored information and builds a valuable customer relationship. The newly formed trust is particularly important in times of uncertainty and provides consumers with constructive support in their purchasing decisions. This positive customer journey clearly sets the company apart from the competition.

Improved business performance after the crisis through AI

In times of crisis, challenges not only accumulate within the company itself but also among its stakeholders. This increases the need for clear customer communication. AI is the optimal investment for companies to scale up customer enquiries during peak periods. Chatbots can take over first-level support and intelligently pre-qualify them. Customers and prospects receive an answer within seconds, the burden on customer service teams is relieved, and they can devote themselves to specific and individual enquiries. Artificial intelligence cannot replace the human component, but it can support and deliver excellent, consistent service. With an intelligent chatbot, the consumer does not notice at which point an employee takes over the communication, leading to excellent customer experience.

Conclusion

In addition to products or services, customer service has become an important unique selling point for customers. Consumers are now used to being able to make their enquiries 24/7 and expect companies to be available at any time. The more contact options are accessible, the better the customer experience with the company. 

The world is becoming more and more digital and with it customer behaviour and preferred communication channels. 75% of people who used digital channels for the first time during the pandemic state in a recent survey that they will continue to use them when “normality” returns. The Corona crisis has shown how essential digital communication channels are. During the lockdown, they were the only way to get in touch with customers and maintain customer relationship. Whether in times of crisis or during normal operation: the potential offered by innovative technologies such as AI and chatbots, are leading to more effective communication with target groups and build a valuable basis of trust through personalized communication. Make sure that your company communicates with your customers regardless of time and place – otherwise your competitors will do it!