3 Key Moments to Automate a Human Touch in Your Customer Journey

Peter Sharkey in Marketing automation on 27th of May 2016
Customer Journey Automation

Customer Journey Automation

For all the work marketers put into identifying our customers’ jobs to be done, creating valuable content and building a scalable, automated marketing machine, the fact remains that humans—our consumers—are anything but machine-like. On the contrary, they’re downright messy. Each person brings his or her own unique emotions, experiences, pain points, questions and budget into your marketing funnel. And no matter how convincing your copy is or how well-timed your nurture campaigns are, it’s impossible to address every lead’s unique use case and concerns by marketing automation alone. What ultimately converts leads to customers, as you’re well aware, is real time, human interaction: i.e., a demo with sales or call from support (especially for enterprise software, or other products that require time and training to adopt). The problem for marketers, though, is that this handoff to other departments is a big gamble on the work we’ve done so far. There are a dozen blockers that could let once-interested leads go stale in your funnel, like:

  • A lead completing your “Request a demo” form, but failing to hear back fast enough from a sales rep
  • A lead hearing back from a sales rep, but getting caught in an annoying game of email tag while trying to find time to meet
  • A lead starting your free trial, getting stuck in setup, and feeling too frustrated to wait for an email response from support

Thankfully, there’s some good news. While there’s no way to automate those interactions so crucial to conversion (unless your sales and support teams are made up of robots?), you can use automation to remove blockers like the ones above. In doing so, you regain control in the handoff to sales or support, and you greatly increase chances of the leads you’ve worked so hard to generate sticking around as customers. Here are three major points where you can easily perfect the handoff using automation:

1. After a CTA on your site: let leads self-qualify

If a lead is engaged enough to fill out a form on your site, they should have immediate access to sales. Note: access is different than forced communication; not everyone may be qualified or ready to be sold to just yet, but for those who are, you want to enable them to connect now, while interest is highest. Sending a non-actionable confirmation email like “We’ll contact you soon” forces your lead to wait around until sales has time to respond, creating the potential for them to get busy, lose interest and forget about you. Remove that potential: trigger a personalized auto-response, written as though it came straight from a rep, with a specific ask: when are you free to meet? For maximum automation + personalization, you’ll want to use the info they submitted through your form to populate the message’s content, including:

  • Their region or time zone, so the message appears as coming from the right rep (if your reps are responsible for specific regions)
  • Their first name
  • Name of the content they downloaded / product they requested a demo for

By asking your lead to share a few times they’re available to connect, you empower them to self-qualify and move further down the funnel. Sales and marketing agency FullFunnel uses this tactic both in-house and when creating automated processes for their clients. “Someone can request a demo or consultation, but until they name a time and prove they actually want to talk, we don’t consider them qualified,” said FullFunnel’s COO, Stephen Barone. Bonus: you can make things even easier by using a tool like Calendly to let leads instantly schedule calls, eliminating the chances of leads and sales having to play email tag. “When the barrier of back-and-forth emails is removed,” said Barone, “prospects can qualify themselves much more quickly.”

2) The trial period: boost trust and engagement

Offering a trial period of your product is, in theory, a great way to speed up users’ time to their “Aha!” moment. But a completely self-serve trial can leave room for confusion or unanswered questions, meaning users may fail to understand how well your offering meets their unique needs. SaneBox initially offered a self-serve-only trial, but decided to experiment with a concierge program, offering each trial user a personal onboarding call. “What we noticed was that this led to a much higher conversion rate,” said Thomas Yuan, who manages SaneBox’s operations and business development. “After people in their trial booked a call and got a better explanation of how to use the product, we noticed a jump in the percentage of trials to subscriptions.” Sanebox using Calendly You could easily build an invitation like SaneBox’s into your onboarding campaign, asking (as above) for the user to share a few times they could meet. Or, to let the entire handoff run on autopilot, use a tool to share the rep’s open times and let the user book a call without any back-and-forth. SaneBox used Calendly in the campaign above.

3) The customer’s lifecycle: prevent churn and increase upsells

Of course, the journey doesn’t end once the sale is made; the direction merely changes. As your messaging shifts from helping leads make a buying decision to helping customers be successful, your users should–at the very least–continue having easy access to your team should issues arise. An even more powerful tactic: gentle prompts to engage with your team at key moments (i.e., product updates or after a customer takes a certain action), which helps keep your product or service top-of-mind. Upserve’s marketing team triggers a message to all existing clients after every major feature release, encouraging them to meet with their account manager for training. Upserve using Calendly Creating a reason for customers to reconnect keeps awareness high and gives them the opportunity to air any questions or confusion–which, if unaddressed, could lead their engagement to decrease over time. Upserve initially invited clients to make the call themselves, but as business grew, they later decided to fully automate the process. “Our old emails said something like ‘it’s time to update your software, call your account manager to schedule a time,” said Adam Codega, head of IT Operations. “But this had two problems: first, they probably weren’t going to call. Second, if they did, they’d have to deal with the annoying back-and-forth. So allowing a partner to automatically schedule really increased the chance of the update happening.”

Wherever leads or customers need a hand

These aren’t the only places you can use automation to remove blockers and control handoff. A good rule of thumb is to review where leaks in your funnel most often occur, and to explore what could be stopping people from moving further. Is there a common question or concern you could address in your content? If so, fantastic. Do that. But if you’re not sure what’s causing people to abandon, invite leads or customers to a human touchpoint. Those conversations reduce drop-off in the short-term, while providing tons of insight you can use to improve your funnel long-term. Now, it’s your turn. Where in your funnel does lead handoff occur? Do you already have an automated process in place for this? Let us know in the comments.

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