Fluency in Customer Conversation is a Key Business Driver

There is a reason why this publication is called Fast Company. The US has an even shorter attention span than many places I’ve had the fortune of spending time in. I’ve been writing about customer conversation here for more than 18 months and I don’t get tired of saying it - fluency in customer conversation is a key business driver, one that will make or break a company’s tenure at the economic table.

In the past several months I outlined how in customer service action speaks louder than words, we talked about moments of truth, how to find out what customers want, and how to give your company service deadlines. We took a look at how Best Buy socializes for business, and how Adobe uses Delicious to reap rewards.

It’s not that service and communications are becoming less influential in marketing innovation, it’s that we’ve lost the ability to create and sustain conversations that are worth having. The ability to know what to listen for, understand, and translate into business outcomes has never been more rare - or more precious.

Fluency in customer conversation also means that internal behaviors in the development of the very products the company sells and the way it delivers services need to change. Customer experience has taken center stage. Think abut Zappos.com and Amazon. What does the first business do incredibly well? it has a tight relationship with customers that give it permission to talk with them and a story worth spreading. This is why it deserved the attention of the second business. Incidentally, they could have both been in any kind of business, they chose shoes and books to start.

Marketing cannot be solely the discipline of shaping an offer; with social media, it needs to align the offer proposition with the way its delivery is experienced in the marketplace.

A company needs to know how to answer the social phone, in addition to mapping to the social engagement profile of its customers. It’s not so much the company’s stories that connect with an audience, but the way in which a company is able to bring to life its fluency in customer conversations - it’s how people relate to each other and to the tools that best solve their problems.

A business that does a good job at capturing that connection and playing it back, will have emotional resonance in its communications. If you believe that the heart of marketing is in shaping the business, then you also know that customers are not a mere audience - they’re where your business comes to life.

Read more of Valeria Maltoni’s Customer Conversation

Valeria Maltoni helps businesses understand how customers and communities have changed marketing, public relations, and communications - and how to build value in this new environment. As a marketer with 20 years of experience, 10 of which online, she specializes in marketing communications, customer dialogue, and brand management. Valeria has come to define modern business as a long and open conversation. Conversation Agent is recognized among the world's top online marketing blogs.

http://Twitter.com/ConversationAge

Add New Comment

2 Comments

  • Valeria Maltoni

    Thank you for elaborating further, Loraine. I don't know why many businesses find it hard to talk about "story" and storytelling. Something like, "just the fact, m'am," misses the whole attraction and connection that narrative has for people. Indeed everyone is a customer.

  • Loraine Antrim

    At the heart of every compelling customer conversation are two elements: a meaningful message that is relevant to the customer and a storyteller who knows how to deliver a customer-centric story. In my experience working especially with hi tech companies, it's the storyteller component that is sometimes lacking.
    Valeria, you are spot-on in your other assessment: that customers are not an audience. I would add that they ARE your company... your board of directors...your executive management team. When organizations see them as such, the stories and storytellers take go to a whole new level. Thanks for the great post and insights! Loraine Antrim Core Ideas Communication

    --
    Loraine Antrim, Co-founding Partner
    Core Ideas Communication
    "We Create Smartmouths®"