“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages you to be brave and true” Charles Dickens.
Dickens must have made this comparison during the early years of the electric telegraph; telephones were not introduced until after his death. How far we have come in “electric communication” since then! In our world of messaging, emails and chatbots, it is interesting to ponder whether his words still hold true. Are there advantages to live chat or chatbots, or does Dickens have the last word? We think there are many circumstances in our fast-paced modern world in which electronic communication is not only helpful but absolutely necessary; maybe it is more about the circumstances, the purpose of our communication and what each party would hope to gain from it. Let’s delve a little more into this fascinating world!
As business owners of small crafting enterprises, good communication will not only be one of your strengths, but something upon which you can most likely fly head and shoulders above larger, more anonymous businesses. You will have the personal touch, both within your staff team and with your customers. There may be days when a good dose of impersonality could seem appealing, when it would be much easier to delegate difficult situations to an anonymous HR team or tricky customers to an equally large marketing team. But, like it or not, you are in the thick of both your team and your customers and handled well, this is a huge advantage.
So, how can up-to-date technology help your business? Increasing numbers of websites now have a chat facility embedded within them and this is worth considering for your business. Chats can be either live or bot-led. The nature of your business will very much determine which of these would be more helpful, or whether a mix of the two would work. The advantages of using a chatbot are that customers can receive help and answers to many of their questions immediately. This could increase their satisfaction level with your business and therefore lead to more sales. In addition, chatbots can be particularly helpful as they will communicate with your customers while you are busy doing something else; this could be worth considering if your craft business is at present a side hustle and you are occupied with your main job during a large part of the working day.
The disadvantage of using a chatbot is that they are often clunky. However well programmed, they will not pick up on nuances, moods and more complex questions that fall into a more human domain. So, the advantage of immediate replies needs to be weighed up against potential frustration on behalf of your customers as their questions are not properly answered. Another possible disadvantage is that bots do not pick up on tone of voice; in the unlikely event that a customer is dissatisfied, likely, a bot will likely not deal with this well, leading to increased dissatisfaction.
Live chat on the other hand has all the advantages of communicating with a real person, among which are warmth, empathy, and a sense of humour. It allows a fairly immediate response, although not as quick as a chatbot would produce. Problems are resolved more quickly and satisfactorily and you will be able to deal with more complex out-of-the-box issues which would not necessarily have been programmed into the bot. For example, an overseas customer might require information about packaging and posting costs, insurance in the case of loss or breakages and a rough delivery period; only a real human being would be able to deal with the individuality of this question and indeed a chatbot could cause frustration.
How does live chat compare with email or telephone calls? If time is of the essence, live chat is certainly quicker than an email. Phone calls add an extra layer of humanity to the communication including tone of voice, as well as warmth, empathy and humour. Emails are good for straightforward queries demanding a quick response. Both they and live chats allow web links to be forwarded, an option which is not available on a phone call.
There is much to weigh up as you consider what the best modes of communication are for your unique business; for example your own time availability, your customer base and your budget. Here at Craft Insurance customer satisfaction is something we value highly and communicating well with you is a large part of that. This is our whole-time family business, and as such Naomi and Sam are always here to speak to you as well as to answer emails. For our business model, this is the best combination. For example, a client may wish to find out whether she/he needs trade public liability insurance. A quick look at our FAQ’s will give a general answer, but will obviously not be applied directly to their situation. The client could then send off an email which we will respond to within twenty-four working hours, explaining how trade public liability insurance is needed in their situation. This can include both general links and advice applied directly to the company and can then be sorted quickly and efficiently. However, sometimes trade public liability insurance might be required with more urgency, maybe our client has a one-off event and needs cover for the following day. In this instance, a phone call will be the fastest way to explain what is required and give peace of mind, ensuring they can put all their energies into the event ahead. Either way, we are here for you and excited to be a small part of your growing businesses.
So, was Dickens right? Probably! At least in as far as no amount of emails, chats or phone calls are a substitute for a deep, soulful conversation with someone who encourages you to live life as your best self. However, the others are essential to our modern world and within their confines we certainly hope to encourage you to be bold in your business and live life to the full!