Small Business Guide: How to Improve Customer Communication

By |05.06.22

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Don’t make the mistake of assuming customer communication is separate from customer experience.

01

Are You the Signal ... Or the Noise?

Remember the pre-virtual days when customers stopped by for a service and a chat? Businesses have been communicating with customers for as long as bartering has been around.

But times have changed. You’re not the only barber, yoga studio or veterinarian on the block. And, thanks to technology, your competition has just as much access to your customers as you do.

The number of customer communication channels and methods is massive. From ads on social media to emails and even direct mailers, communicating with customers is about more than you simply reaching out to them.

02

What is Customer Communication?

Customer communication is the continuous exchange between a business and its clients, using various channels and strategies. The key words in that sentence are “continuous exchange.”

Take a moment to think about businesses that can thrive on one-time transactions. Very few, if at all. Even catering companies — who may only work with clients annually — depend on customer retention.

And the exchange isn’t limited to a service transaction. Just as a conversation must have two participants, so does your business’s customer communications.

Customer communications should be:

  • Ongoing
  • A two-way street
  • Relationship-focused
03

What Does Effective Customer Communication Look Like?

Effective customer communication helps build relationships with your target audience. At the same time, it promotes customer engagement and retention.

Customer communication should involve you listening to your customer just as much as you push information their way.

Yes, marketing strategies are key to keeping your customers in the know, but if you never hear what they have to say, you’ll miss the mark on what they need from you.

Various customer communication methods include:

 

Tip: Having a whitelisted email and avoiding phishing keywords can help your emails survive spam filters. Be sure to ask customers to add your business to their email address books.
04

Why Does Customer Communication Matter?

Effective customer communication doesn’t simply build a relationship. It also continuously nurtures and protects that relationship.

For example, a massage therapist doesn’t have much talking time with clients. You’re greeting clients and getting down to working out those kinks.

While clients are expected to stop in once every two to four weeks, you can’t expect them to remember when it’s time to schedule another appointment — especially if you didn’t get them on the books before they walked out.

If you’re not communicating with that client, consider them lost.

Customer communication matters because it’s not enough to rely on your services to guarantee customer retention. Perhaps they loved your stone massage and didn’t even mind the price. But after three months of radio silence from you, they started seeing your competition up the road.

Communication as Experience

Don’t make the mistake of assuming customer communication is separate from customer experience.

Customer retention is a direct result of high satisfaction rates. Each time you interact with a customer, whether by email, social media or phone call, the conversation and messaging should be intentional.

When it comes to dealing with less-than-satisfied customers, the right communication strategy can turn things around and build better long-term relationships.

More importantly, every member of your staff should be on the same page with what’s expected — regardless of who they are — to avoid dropping the ball and losing a customer.

05

Customer Communication Basics

Whenever your team creates a piece of customer communication, you’ll want to be strategic and thorough.

A casual conversation doesn’t warrant much thought in the moment. But when it comes to your business’s branded communications, you’ll need to think them through. You’re not talking just to talk. Accuracy, purpose and personality are your main focus here.

Accuracy

Make sure the information you share is accurate. Check the most-recent document, notice or bulletin containing the facts you’re discussing.

Refer to that when building out your message. If you’re not sure the information is correct, have someone double-check. Run any messaging through various people to catch any mistakes before it goes out to customers.

Purpose

Accurate information is essential, but what’s its purpose? Make sure that’s clear. Do your easy, skincare tips prompt clients to book a facial or join your webinar on reducing fine lines?

Even if you’re just checking in on a client who’s been MIA for two months, your communications need a purpose.

Be sure there’s an effortless human perspective brought to conversations, whether a human delivers them or a bot. By keeping interactions human, your business avoids coming off as impersonal.
Personality

I’m sure you, like many others, can spot an automated message from a mile away. We all know personalized first-name messages fool no one. But they’re a nice touch either way and should be included — especially when trying to increase sales.

You can make customer communications feel more personal by adding specifics to your customer relationship management (CRM) system that can be pulled into mass mailing templates.

How amazing would it feel to receive a message that said: “Hey, Jenny! We miss you here at Elegance Salon and Spa. It’s been a month since your last facial. Let’s get you booked.”

It’s simple and quick but specific to the reader. And when you automate those messages, they won’t require any extra effort from you or your team.

06

10 Common Customer Communication Problems

  1. Customers don’t know how to contact you
  2. You never request feedback
  3. Company updates aren’t shared
  4. Customers don’t feel valued
  5. Response time is slow
  6. Customer service support isn’t knowledgeable
  7. Endless transfers from team to team
  8. Excess automation with zero personalization
  9. Failure to meet expectations and promises
  10. Zero post-service follow up
07

Importance of Communication in Customer Experience

Customer communication involves more than your marketing team. It includes everyone — sales, reception, customer service and even you, the business owner. Although each team serves its own purpose, working as a united front improves the overall customer experience.

By having a holistic customer communication strategy in place you can connect customers with the right team member each time, providing smooth customer service.

Ensuring consistently great customer communication requires a great deal of listening, purposeful action and reporting back.

Always Listen

If you’re listening to your customer’s tales of woe after they’ve decided not to continue doing business with you, you’re too late. There’s a high chance they’d already voiced their displeasure — even if through vague signals. This is exactly why it’s vital to proactively seek feedback.

While dissatisfaction signals may not always be clear, they’re almost always apparent. Communication often requires listening to what isn’t being said.

Signals to look for include:

  • Slow responses
  • Rescheduling often
  • Neglects discounts
  • Not engaging with marketing
  • Doesn’t reschedule

If you’re already seeing these signs, it’s time to get active. Pull out a tactical survey. Yes, surveys should already be a part of your regular customer documentation, but sometimes post-service review links are missed on receipts. Tie in survey requests with a milestone.

“Congrats on your 10th dance class with us at Shake It Fitness! We’d love to hear your feedback.”

Purposeful Action

You’ve requested feedback, now make a move. Don’t do what you think should be done. Do what your customers are requesting. They took the time to share their opinions and thoughts on how to improve the business. If you don’t act on those notes, you risk harming your relationship with those customers.

All this seems simple enough until you’re neck-high in requests. Make sure requests make it to the proper teams immediately so processes can be implemented or improved.

Your automotive repair team doesn’t care about the time it takes to check in and drop off a car, but your front-desk team would find that information valuable.

Report Back

Sit down with your staff and review the impact of any changes. Are they up to your brand’s standards? If so, great! Close the loop. Reach out to customers and let them know how much you valued their opinion.

“We asked and you answered. Now we’ve delivered! Thanks to your feedback, we here at Quick Car Turn Around cut check-in time in half!”

08

How to Improve Customer Communication

Whether you’re working to communicate with customers through email, SMS messages, social media, your website or a third-party app, it’s important to have a strategy.

Examine your customer demographics. Is there a group of customers generally more engaged with emails? Perhaps there’s a group that gravitates toward social promotions.

Consider why they’re communicating. Are they on your website looking where to leave their review? Are they on Instagram inquiring about new package details? Understanding the channels on which various pain points appear will help your teams adjust communication.

Text messages are read within 3 minutes of receiving them.

Understand how customers want to be contacted. The best way to do that is to ask. Send out a yearly questionnaire asking about their preferred communication method as well as how often they want to hear from you.

Consider what your end-to-end business software brings to the table. Miscommunication can occur when conversations happen in multiple places. It’s nearly impossible to foster beneficial customer relationships from a place of dysfunction. That’s why finding software that keeps all communications organized is a game-changer.

Thryv helps users manage every conversation from one inbox, for fluid conversations. Thryv’s centralized inbox displays each customer’s communication in client-specific threads. So regardless of whether your client wants to send you messages via SMS, email, webchat or Facebook Messenger, Thryv organizes the conversation in one centralized inbox within the Thryv dashboard. Plus, with automated reminders and read receipts, there’s no reason to forget to follow up.

Having an effective customer service communication strategy will help your business thrive. Follow these tips and best practices to nurture customer relationships and improve your customer service. You’ll boost customer retention and help your business continue to grow.

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