A lot of focus goes into optimizing marketing activities. That focus is important and very helpful in numerous ways, but all the A/B testing and conversion optimization in the world gets flushed down the drain as soon as a customer actually contacts your company. Not nearly as much effort goes into improving customer contacts. Perhaps this is because person-to-person interaction inherently has some degree of variability, or because sales and support staff are expected to be highly competent at customer interactions, or because people don’t realize that customer interactions can be optimized. Regardless of the reason, life science companies need to realize that customer communications can be improved, and there are a number of definite (and often relatively easy) ways to do so. We discuss some below.
Improve Response Times
There have been many studies which have shown that lead qualification rates drop off massively over time. Even a matter of seconds has been shown to have a significant impact in qualification rates. A study of lead response behavior found that 36% of inquiries were not responded to at all within a two-week time frame. Yet response times are something which companies have direct control over.
Technology can be used to assist to some extent. Automated lead distribution – and in particular automated lead distribution to multiple agents simultaneously – has been shown to have the greatest impacts on conversion rates, with rates over twice as high as when there is no automation to assist in lead distribution.
If it really comes down to it, hire more people. Considering that leads which are contacted within an hour are 7 times more likely to be qualified as those which are contacted even one hour later, the cost / benefit ratio seems to be well worth it. Seven times more qualified leads not only means about 7 times as much business (or at least something in that ballpark) but it also means that your sales staff’s time is seven times more efficient when contacting leads.
It’s not only about sales, however. Support inquiries are equally as important, as they contribute significantly to overall customer experience which in turn affects customer loyalty. This should not come as a surprise.
Arm Your Customer-Facing Employees with Information
Too often, the quality of a customer interaction is most directly related to the experience of the person the customer is interacting with. Newer employees are often less knowledgeable and therefore are often not as well suited to assist the customer. Training can only help so much.
To combat this problem, ensure that you maintain a well-curated body of knowledge for your sales and support teams. Having ready access to information, such as past issues and their solutions, will your customer-facing employees more efficient, reduce the time it takes the customer to get a good answer, and improve the customers’ experiences when interacting with your company.
Provide Consistent Experiences
Although not as important in terms of short-term demand generation, the consistency of customer experiences plays strongly on brand perception. Inconsistent experiences, even if they are largely positive, can have a disruptive effect which conflict with each other rather than building on each other. To some extent, customer interactions should reflect a degree of branding.
I’m not recommending that life science companies take it to this much of an extreme, but a great example of branded customer interactions comes from Mailchimp, which has voice & tone guidelines for customer interactions. While I find the Mailchimp example to be a bit much – certainly far more defined than what many life science companies would need – it’s both reasonable and practical to set general voice and tone guidelines while also ensuring consistency in finer details such as email fonts.
When thinking about optimizing your marketing, think beyond the standard channels and consider improvements in actual customer interactions. While these activities may traditionally be the sole responsibility of the sales and support business areas, they may not often take as structured an approach to improvement as marketing commonly does, especially when considering aspects such as customer experience and branding. By making improvements to actual customer interactions, customer satisfaction, customer retention, and opportunity conversion will all increase while delivering positive brand value as well.