How To Build Relationships With Zero-Contact Customers In A Digital World 2

How To Build Relationships With Zero-Contact Customers In A Digital World

Isn’t it odd that we live in a world where people buy things without having any human contact in the sales process whatsoever? The world of online shopping has grown at such an unprecedented rate that we’ve forgotten, that once upon a time, we wouldn’t buy certain products without speaking to someone.

But now, all the information you could ever need about a product is displayed online. In fact, in some instances, you can probably get even more information than if you spoke to a human in terms of stats and performance. Fascinating isn’t it?

In 1949 Shannon and Weaver came up with a communication theory which consisted of five key elements. An information source, a transmitter, a channel, a receiver and a destination. All we’ve done is swap the channel, which was a telephone, to a web page.

E-commerce has become so technology led that it’s rare these days for online businesses to have an actual phone number to call. The reality is that companies avoid it. Whether you believe that’s a good or bad thing is a whole different topic. Really the key question is, if there’s zero human contact in the shopping process, how do you build customer relationships?

Personalisation through data capture

You can’t have a one to one conversation with someone, but what you can do is personalise their online experience. 53% of people like it when brands know their preferences and cater to them directly. This means serving up relevant content for your customers and finding ways to make their online experience more personal.

Like serving up products you know they might like based on previous search history and stuff they’ve bought, and throwing in personalised offers to encourage them to convert. The main way in which you can know what information to provide and how to target people is data. Data is the power behind online communications. Just like when you have a conversation with a friend your brain remembers their past behaviour and preferences, you can do the same online but with data.

The online blueprint is far more complex than you could ever imagine. Today’s UX experts can use data to analyse all sorts of behaviour. From heatmaps, we can see where people click, and figure out what makes them click and then serve up better options in the future.

Online ‘body language’ and social behaviour

This is kind of similar to analysing someone’s body language when you first meet them. Where do they look? How does your presence make them feel and what do they do when you present them with certain information?

In the same way, people get into certain habits in everyday life, they tend to mirror this behaviour online. Clicking on certain things, visiting specific sites at specific times and responding to certain cues. If brands want to succeed in building strong relationships with customers in a digital age, they need to get to know the online body language and habits of their audience.

Now that people are used to buying a product online without any human contact, they come to expect certain things from brands. There’s an online social code to abide by, which is very important despite the lack of face to face contact. And it’s all based on what information people expect at each stage of the buying journey. They expect in-depth product information, a clear and easy to use shopping basket, and a follow-up email that thanks them for their purchase. All these things are the digital version of customer relationship building.

Incident response

When things go wrong online, people can get frustrated very quickly. They might be aware that they may not be able to talk to a human because people are getting used to this way of doing things. But just because they can’t speak to someone doesn’t mean their issue can’t be resolved. All the appropriate digital response measures should be put in place to deal with hiccups.

The first stage of resolving a problem with a customer tends to be to present them with FAQs. This can go one of two ways. Either you annoy the customer further by offering up information that’s not helpful or lacking depth and the issue escalates. This will weaken your customer relationships in an instant. Or, the second, which is the ideal situation where your FAQ’s are so detailed and useful that the customer finds an answer to their problem.

Having an email address that people can contact, or an online chat service can help to build stronger relationships. Just make sure that staff are trained to respond appropriately and they do some in a timely manner.

User experience

UX is your most important weapon in your relationship building toolset. If you’re not meeting customers in person and the bulk of their experience with your brand is your website, it has to be on point.

The better user experience they have, the more likely they are to leave your site with a positive impression of your brand. UX involves structuring your website in a way that’s very user-friendly and helpful to customers so that they instantly feel you are offering an above average service.

According to Adobe, customer experience needs to be adaptive in order to build a strong sense of loyalty. People will keep coming back to your site if it offers a UX experience that is constantly evolving and adapting to their specific needs.


Last, but not least, there’s branding. Your customers won’t have the opportunity to meet your staff in a digital world. So how can they get a real feel for your brand? Via your website branding. It needs to showcase your brand personality through the colours, design and content.

Establishing a consistent brand tone of voice is crucial now more than ever. Because if you can’t talk to your customers using your voice, you need to do a fine job with written content. You can reel customers in by the way that you speak to them via your online content –  so invest in high-quality content and make your online voice count.

Andrew Machin
Andrew Machin

With over 25 years’ experience in UX and digital strategy, Andrew has helped many national and global brands such as John Lewis, Harley Davidson, Johnson & Johnson, and Interflora create exceptional digital product experiences.

Through the success of such projects Andrew has received high-profile accolades that span innovation, strategy, and design, such as the Dadi Grand Prix Award and the Digital Impact Award for Innovation.

This experience has led to Andrew judging digital design awards, been featured in .net magazine, lecturing at Leeds university, and speaking at seminars and conferences across the UK.

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