Conversational Marketing – Set Expectations with Online/Offline Hours

Welcome messages are designed to appear on your website when your team is online and available to chat. Of course, that’s not always going to be the case. Marketers and salespeople

need to sleep,and unless you set up a chatbot, managing messaging 24 hours a day can be a struggle, especially for smaller companies. That’s why it’s important to establish online and offline hours when using messaging—so you can make it clear to visitors when you’re available to chat and when you’re not.

For example,you may decide to set your online hours as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. During those online hours, you can have your welcome message appear as usual and engage with visitors in real time. But during your offline hours, before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m., or anytime over the weekend, you can have an away message appear. You can also manually toggle between online and offline mode as needed, allowing you to display your away message during times when you need to be offline, like when you’re having a team-wide meeting.

Ideally, of course, you’d be able to have conversations around the clock, but the next best thing is being open and honest with potential customers about your availability(as opposed to leaving them in the dark). That’s where the away message comes into play.

How to Write an Effective Away Message

In addition to letting your visitors know that your team is currently unavailable to chat,your away message can set expectations for visitors (by letting them know when you’ll be back online) and can prompt visitors to leave their email addresses so you can connect with them later. Here are three key points to remember when crafting your away message:

1. Be Honest. If you’re going to be offline for a 12-hour stretch, don’t tell your visitors someone will respond within a few minutes. Because guess what? When those visitors stick around for a few minutes and no one responds, they’ll feel ignored, and that doesn’t make for a great experience. Your away message should set expectations for visitors, not deceive them.

2. Encourage visitors to leave a message. Even when you’re offline, you can still use messaging to drive engagement. In your away message, you should encourage visitors to leave you a note so that as soon as you’re back online, you can answer their questions and/or provide whatever help they need.

3. Don’t forget to ask for an email address. In some cases, the visitors who reply to your away message might not return to your website to continue the conversation over messaging. That’s why it’s important to ask for an email address: so you can follow up with them directly if needed.

Show Your Face

Ask any of our designers at Drift and they’ll tell you: I have a bit of an obsession with using faces in everything we do. Whether it’s our product, the homepage of our website, or the images on our blog, I have found faces to be crucial when it comes to humanizing our brand and humanizing the customer experience. So instead of relying on stock images or cartoons, we’ve been taking our own photos around the office, at the offices we visit, and at team outings

and conferences. That way, we can use photos of our actual employees and customers in our marketing and have their faces represent our brand. This helps us make stronger connections with our existing customers as well as with our potential customers.

Turns out, there’s a scientific reason for why faces are so powerful. As biologist Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D., explained in Psychology Today in 2017, faces play a crucial role in human communication, starting when we’re infants. To quote Lents: “The face is the means by which we send and receive communication long before words or even gestures, and this communication is more precise and nuanced than clumsy cries and grunts.” He went on to explain that humans have more diversity in our facial features than other species and that we also look at each other’s faces more frequently compared to other species, especially during communication.Lents’s conclusion: “Our faces were key to our individuality, our communication, and our connection to other people. In other words, our faces were, and still are, a central aspect of our sociality.”

Using Faces to Make Messaging a More Trustworthy Channel

When it comes to using messaging for conversational marketing and sales, faces are a must. Marketers and sales peoplewho are going to be using messaging to engage with potential customers should upload photos of themselves, in addition to including their full names. By displaying real faces and real names, you can help show potential customers that the “chat agents” they’re talking to are actual people—not anonymous corporate entities.

That was part of the problem with the first wave of messaging back in the 1990s: Website visitors didn’t always trust the answers they were receiving, as it was unclear who they were hearing them from. Today, you can have the photo of the employee who is currently managing messaging appear automatically as part of your welcome message. And if you have multiple employees using messaging on your website at the same time, you can have multiple faces appear. In addition to helping set expectations for visitors so they have a sense of who they’ll be talking to, displaying a bunch of smiling faces on your website is also a welcoming gesture.

Think about it: If your website was a store and people walked in, you wouldn’t hide behind the counter—you’d smile and say hello. And that’s exactly what we should be doing on our websites.

This is an edited extract from Conversational Marketing by David Cancel and Dave Gerhardt (published by Wiley, March 2019).

Author: Editorial Team

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