Life science companies rarely speak with their customers as often or as deeply as they should. You can make the common excuse about scientists being distant and antisocial (which I would like to go on record as saying is complete nonsense) but many companies actually start out being good at speaking with customers but then lose that trait as they grow. Why? Simple – taking the time to speak with customers isn’t something that’s easily scalable. It’s easy to view large amount of customer interaction as unnecessary and cut it in the name of efficiency. Or a company might just become large enough that it makes a lot of financial sense to automate the heck out of everything. While marketing automation and customer relationship management automation are very powerful tools that we strongly advocate, they should not displace real conversations with your scientist-customers, for a number of reasons.
1) Customers love good support.
Nothing says “we don’t care about you” like a robotic confirmation email sent from a DO-NOT-REPLY email address. While you can still do better without actually speaking with the customers, your customers will appreciate getting an email from a real person (or at least what looks to be an email from a real person) with the ability to reply to that person and ultimately get a response. It shows that you care enough to give them some of your time, if they want it. And while some customers may abuse the privilege, most will not and it gives you the opportunity to create a lot of goodwill. It’s great for your brand and great for customer-retention.
Of course, you don’t need to wait until after the sale to have a conversation or to demonstrate great support (but we’ll address that in a minute).
2) You WILL learn things.
Want feedback on your product? Want MORE and BETTER feedback? Want to learn what the customer is thinking when they’re contemplating a purchase or perusing your website? You could fire off an email asking them to take a survey to try to win an iPod, and that might be useful if you’re dying for quantitative data to perform some large-scale analysis, but in most situations you’ll be better served and you’ll almost always get a better response from just striking up a conversation. Have an actual person type an email to a few people who bought your product three months ago and ask how things are going. I’m sure most of you would be genuinely interested in how the customer feels about your product, so let that interest shine through. Show them that you have an interest in them and you care about what they think and how things are working out.
Of course, you don’t need to wait until after the sale to have a conversation and learn about your audience (almost there…)
3) It can be great for conversion.
You know those live chat boxes that you occasionally see popping up asking if you want to chat with a representative? Or the popup-like “lightbox” that appears after you’ve been on a website for 10 seconds where you’re asked if you’ll take a 4-minute survey? Those both seem pretty silly and useless and they often are, however their failure is more due to design than their intention. Customers will speak with you during their buying journey, and you can effectively prompt them to do so on your website (or just about anywhere else). Whether you’re making use of live chat or simply encouraging users to call or email, try to start a conversation as early as possible without being forceful or gimmicky about it. Not only will you help your conversion by answering questions and helping to simplify the customer’s buying journey, but you’ll also learn a lot about how they make their buying decisions and demonstrate good support all at the same time.
It’s very easy to get out of the habit of having meaningful conversations with customers. By ensuring that you take the time to speak with the customers you’ll be doing a valuable service to your company and helping your scientist-customers at the same time. There’s simply no substitute for real conversations.