For high-value customers, some companies roll out the red carpet. They fly across the country to meet new employees. They send personalized onesies for the CEO’s new baby. They have teams of Customer Success reps to call and can walk customers through every new feature. As much as we’d all like to do that for our customers, it just doesn’t always make sense, especially if you’re operating with limited resources.
But it doesn’t mean your customers aren't high-value—and it doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore them.
High-touch, 1:1 interactions between a customer and a company are great. However, there are a lot of ways to give a high-touch feel to your app or product when you can’t afford that level of customer success. In fact, you can make customers feel like they all have 1:1 attention even if your company is comprised of three people working out of someone’s bedroom.
Here are three cost-effective ways to get a high touch feel to your customer engagement strategies.
1. Use targeted, strategic messaging
Messages feel innately personal. That’s because they engage “conversational turn-taking,” one of the most human things we do.The back-and-forth nature of message and response is as natural as breathing—even when it’s automated. A lot of apps successfully tap into this human instinct by using live chat tools and popups.
It’s the same reason Customer Success reps call clients all the time—customers really like that high-touch, person-to-person interaction. But messaging within an app, unlike calling someone on the phone, is scalable, and gives customers a similar level of attention.
Unlike email or ticketing support systems, messaging strategies engage our conversational impulses, since users get a quick response instead of waiting an indefinite amount of time for someone to respond to them.
In addition, a Forrester Research study found that “44% of online consumers stated that having questions answered by a live person during moments of choice—like making a purchase—is the most important feature a website can offer.” The study also found that while people still use the phone to call about customer service, more and more people are using mobile and web options, in part because they’re matching the same level of quality as person-to-person phone calls.
The elements of a high-touch phone call can still be present in a chat messaging app. Using a live-chat tool like Olark helps engage our conversational nature and shows customers that we want there to be a dialogue. Something as simple as saying “Hey there!” is a friendly way to start a conversation, before you address the customer’s problem.
Rather than forcing your customers to sit around through lengthy holds, waiting for customer support on the other line, use chat tools to talk to your customers and engage with them rapidly. When a customer asks you how to do something simple, like how to install your mobile app, you can direct them immediately to the relevant resources with a canned response.
Triggered Messages Make Automation Feel Human
Triggered messages can have a similar effect, even though they’re automated. That’s because they’re triggered based on events and actions that users take within the app. It engages in the same kind of “conversational turn-taking” that powers face-to-face communication.
The food delivery service Maple, for example, triggers a request for a review each time a customer signs back onto the website—right after they’ve had enough time to savor their last meal, and are thinking about the next one. It keeps the food front-and-center of the conversation.
But rating the food isn’t the end of the dialogue. If a customer review is especially scathing or poor, an actual customer success rep reaches out to comp customers on their next meal.
Customers are welcome to opt out, but this kind of automation—recognizing that the customer has taken an action, registering it, and then intervening when necessary—makes it feel like a conversation. Not only does it alleviate unsatisfied customers, but it incentivizes them to continue reviewing the service, and make it even better. They’re not just talking into a black box.
Even apps that aren’t explicitly modeled to look like messaging engage in “conversational turn-taking” by responding to properties and events. You can use a tool like Appcues to send in-app messages based on actions taken in-app, or even launch a chat box.
2. Call them on the phone—but only when it counts
Phone calls used to be the go-to method for getting in touch with prospects, but have been fazed out because there are more effective ways of communicating that take less time, are asynchronous, and scalable.
Y Combinator founder Paul Graham instructs startups to do things that don’t scale—and to go out of their way to delight customers, even when they’re desperately racing toward growth. High-touch companies do it all the time. Their CS reps spend a lot of their days calling to check up on customers, whether it’s to explain a new feature or just see how they’re doing.
Here’s the difference: you need to call strategically by calling the right person at the right time. Calling is costly—you can’t afford to have success reps dialing phones all day, hoping that it will make a difference. You gain scale by calling when it matters the most.
Identify Your High-Value Phone Calls
First, this requires locating where those points are in your customer’s lifecycle. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can use an event tracking platform like Amplitude to run behavioral cohort analysis to predict what your customers are about to do. That way, when a customer is about to churn, you can call them right before it happens.
In this graph, users who have added songs to 3 lists are more likely to stick around than general users. Users who have joined a community are even more likely to stick around. Identify where the curve is steep, and you can politely check in with a quick phone and direct your customers to that aha moment even faster.
Even if the customer sticks to their guns and decides to leave your service, this high-touch call can still pay dividends. It makes the customer feel really special, but more importantly, it gives you deep insight into your customers. Customers are less likely to blow past a phone call—and give you more detail—compared to something impersonal, like an exit survey. As Steli writes,
“Having a real conversation with your departing customer is integral to learning something meaningful from the exercise. It’s all about going deeper, asking questions, and coming to a real, detailed understanding of your customer.”
Doing things like calling your customers might not be scalable, but the pay off in customer engagement is huge. Let data inform when you intervene with a high-touch gestures, and get the biggest bang for your buck.
3. Run a community forum to engage users
Community forums are another way of feeling high-touch, since customers get 1:1 engagement either with someone from your company, or a fellow. They keep customers engaged with your product, whether that’s through a Slack channel that you’ve created and invite users to or something as intensive as Hubspot's or Buffer’s community forums.
When done right, your users do the work for you, and are more engaged, too! However, they can also feel like duds if you’re consistently throwing out questions that no one is answering.
Incentivize Community Participation
In order to prevent that from happening, some well-crafted forums reward users for consistently using their app. Moz uses “MozPoints” to incentivize, essentially outsourcing the job, and jumping in where they need to, moderating and answering questions where they see fit. You engage with the product, have a 1:1 conversation with a human being, and your questions are answered.
It’s also a good way to send out content that engages users, whether that’s a push notification or via email. If someone has posted a question or response, it’s a way of bringing them back into the app or forum through customer engagement. There’s nothing like seeing “Your friend X has answered your question.”
It’s a direct, 1:1 response that feels high-touch, even if you’ve outsourced it to the community.
Community forum best practices:
Invite users to subscribe to comment threads so they’ll engage when they get a response.
Have someone at your company moderate to prevent uninformed (or inappropriate) responses.
Ask questions to promote user engagement with the service to get the ball rolling.
Use Videos To Get the Conversation Started
If you’re looking for content to get a conversation started, try using a video.
They’re a great way to get initial engagement, and prime the pump to get people excited about being a part of your community. The familiarity principle means viewers feel like they have a 1:1 ratio with the people in the video—a high-touch customer engagement strategy—even though they’re infinitely scalable.
Margot Mazur, community manager at the video hosting platform Wistia, will often start Wistia community forum threads by posting a video that people can’t help but engage with. Whether the video is making a company announcement, posing a question to community users, or offering Wistia’s signature expertise in video marketing, it always gets Wistia users to join the conversation.
The real benefit of using video is that it’s reusable content. Unlike a phone call, a video is a high-touch customer engagement strategy that you can use over and over again, in different contexts. As Kristen Craft of Wistia writes,
“We argue that videos are like blog posts or other content. You don't write one and consider yourself finished. You point back to them, reference them in other content, and ensure they get the mileage they deserve. At the end of the day, it's all about generating good content and distributing it efficiently.”
So if you’ve made a tutorial video explaining how to use an aspect of your product and people in your community forum are asking about that problem, re-posting that video in that thread is a great way to get additional mileage out of that old video. The person posting the question feels like the video was made exactly for them, even though it was a fixed cost for your company.
High-touch customer engagement is a dialogue
High-touch customer engagement isn’t just about the perks. When companies take clients out for lobster dinners, they’re not just extending a nice meal—they’re extending their time and attention. High-touch customer engagement is all about giving customers the gift of your relationship.
Danny Meyer, restauranteur and founder of Union Square Hospitality group says that this is one of the most fundamental elements of customer happiness, and one that a lot of companies overlook. Having a relationship with customers—one in which they receive attention and feel like they’re heard—is incredibly important to keeping them engaged with your company. “While the customer is not always right,” Meyer says, “he or she must always feel heard.”
Making the customer feel heard is difficult, but doesn’t require a high-touch, 1:1 relationship. It just requires a dialogue—something as small as automated messages that respond to users’ actions. It makes them feel like their action has been seen and validated, and that someone at your company is listening.