The Art of Conversation

Was talking yesterday about the rise in online communities and heard a nugget of wisdom: “If it has to go through legal, it isn’t a conversation.”

Which got me thinking, what does make a conversation? Is there an art to having conversations with consumers? With employees?

You’ve probably heard the adage that the art of conversation is dead. Not true. If you need proof, simply try having a conversation with a toddler. The other day my three-year old daughter asked my husband and father what happened to (my husband’s) car stereo.  They told her that a bad man took it. She thought about that. Then asked “Where’s the bad guy?” Thinking she was scared that he might come back, they told her not to worry… that he was gone.

“Where?”

“Far away.”

“But where is he?”

“He’s far, far away. He won’t come back.”

“But where did he go?”

After about 10 more questions like this, my dad finally said “He’s in a cave. In Mexico.”

But it didn’t end there. By the end of the ride, the bad guy was living in a cave, with bats, south of Guadelajara. And my dad spent the rest of Thanksgiving showing her caves and bats on the Internet.

Now I certainly don’t mean to imply that companies should make something up just to get us to go away. Just illustrating the point that we’re hard-wired to engage in conversation. To ask questions until we’re blue in the face. And see through veiled attempts to placate with superficial answers. We’re always digging for more. And we trust the sources that deliver.

A voice is perhaps the single greatest source of human empowerment. Consumers aren’t going to stop using theirs. So learning the art of conversation with them is a key to any company’s success in the future. “Press 1 to route your call correctly” doesn’t cut it. Neither does a broken record of a brand’s positioning statement. Or community forums where customers ask questions, but get no answers.

I could go on, but I don’t think I could illustrate this point any better than Francois Gossieaux did with this story he shared on his blog yesterday. Now that’s funny.



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