Communicating with customers is something we all do. Whether it’s emails, instant messaging, calls, or advertising, what we say to our customers will draw them in, leave them feeling neutral, or alienate them.
Hoping to take the high road to communications excellence? It can be a tricky balance. For example, those newsletters you send out could be a case of too much unsolicited information too often. But woe betide the business that fails to communicate when customers want info or that makes promises but fails to deliver. And, if you’re offering customer service and support (as you should) but have less than exemplary agents representing you, things can go pear-shaped rapidly.
With so much to do and so many things to manage, business leaders must still devise and implement a customer communications strategy that works for their businesses and their clients. Need help? Here’s what you need to know.
Your Customer Communications Strategy
The benefits of good communication with customers are easy to see. Nevertheless, let’s run through the big ones. Done well, your communications strategy gains new customers, helps you retain existing customers, improves perceptions of your brand, reinforces the image you want your brand to convey, and deepens customer engagement and loyalty.
These are the aims to keep in mind when devising a communications strategy. But how can you devise a strategy that works? These guidelines will help you:
- Know who you’re talking to. Is that a tough call? Begin by thinking about your ideal customers. Who are they? Go beyond thinking about age, gender, location, and economic bracket, and take a deep dive. For example, what are their dreams, hopes, and fears? Why do they buy your products? By talking to your ideal customers, you’ll also address the “OK” customers while resonating more strongly with the people you want to do business with most.
- Decide what you want them to do, and how you’ll encourage them to do it. Now that you know who you’re talking to, it’s time to lead them toward an action you’d like them to take. Remember that you’ll be “talking” to them for various reasons and across multiple channels – and they get to decide on the channels they prefer. How can you reach them in a way they’ll perceive as positive?
- Get the word out to your agents. It’s nice to have good intentions, but the people who communicate with your customers need to know what they are, and how to deliver. That means more than just giving them templates or scripts. They need the what and the why so that they’ll know when to stick to it, and when they’ll need to improvise in a way that still aligns with your goals and brand image.
- Analyse and improve on results. When analysing how your strategy is working, you can get some results on auto. For example, how many people are opening your business’s emails? However, some of the most important metrics will come from your customer service operatives and your customers themselves. Make sure they can give you feedback through surveys and other reporting channels.
Customer Communication Management
Customers are free to say what they like, but everything your business communicates to its customers must be aligned with your policy, strategy, and brand. Customer communication management (CCM) means analysing outbound communications and their impact on clients.
That means having an in-depth understanding of all communications – from web pages and ads to billing communications and customer support interactions. Since these communications are not only numerous but spread across multiple platforms, advanced software tools are essential.
Information is the basis of decision-making – or it should be – and your company gathers vast volumes of it. Don’t lose out on the opportunities this presents.
Methods of Communicating With Customers
Apart from knowing the “what” of customer communication, it’s important to consider the “where” and work to create a unified brand message across all of the possible places in which communication occurs.
It’s a bigger field than you may have expected, and it ranges from visual information such as your storefront, website, or logo to the more obvious marketing copy, emails, live chats, social media interactions, phone calls, and SMSs.
Your communications methodology requires specific skill-sets depending on where it’s applied. For example, some people have great writing skills, while others have the verbal dexterity to handle communications on the fly. Some folks are experts at visual messaging, but may not do as well when asked to write or speak.
The take-home? The right communication skills in customer service depend on where they’re to be deployed. In implementing your customer communications strategy, knowing your people is just as important as knowing your customers.
Best Practices for Customer Communication
Communicating well with customers is a goal that every business should work toward. When striving for best practice, keeping the elements that good goals consist of in mind will be a help. That means implementing a SMART approach. Need to jog your memory? Communication with customers should be based on these elements:
- Specific communication: What should be communicated, and what is it meant to achieve?
- Measurable outcomes: How are people reacting to your business’s communications? Know how you’ll measure it. Remember, what you measure is what you get!
- Achievable results: Of course, we’d love to have 100 percent of people following our calls to action. But that’s not realistic. Get a baseline and work for continuous, achievable improvements.
- Relevant communication over more communication: Here’s where scripts and templates often fail. It’s also an area in which advertising and bulk emailing flounder. From your marketing team to your customer support crew, communicating what matters to individual customers is better than bombarding them with messages that don’t matter to them.
- Timely communications: As the old saying goes: “There’s a time and a place for everything.” Your customers’ perspective is everything here. They’ll want rapid response times, and no matter what you want them to do next, choosing the right time to tell them about it will impact your success.
Of course, all these points relate to the specifics of best practice. These include, keeping promises, listening actively, empowering operatives to handle all but anomalous situations, and achieving results that amount to a win-win situation for both the business and its customers.
Keeping Your Business Lean? Automate and Outsource While Staying in Control
As we’ve noted, there are many methods of communicating with customers. The good news is that you can automate some of them. For example, a message thanking a customer for their purchase is easily sent on auto – but it should also include information on how to pursue any further questions they may have.
Software that brings together customer histories spanning touchpoints and platforms offers another form of automation that also includes analytics to help you with decision-making. But, when it comes to customer communication, the human element still matters most.
Many businesses outsource to marketing agencies, for example. They’ll use their people’s expertise to improve the visual messaging and copy that helps you to remain uppermost in your customers’ minds.
But one element that many businesses overlook at their peril is the need for professional, in-person service around the clock. If your customers have something on their minds, they’ll want to talk (or write) to a person, and the quality and outcome of that interaction ultimately determine their opinions of your business.
Hoping to outsource this part of your customer communications? Choose specialised customer service and support that’s a cut above the rest, or expand your horizons to include outbound sales and back-office services. At RSVP, we commit to communicating with your customers as well or better than you could yourself while our software keeps you in the loop about what your customers are saying. Make communication between your business and its customers a two-way street with RSVP. Contact us today for more information. We’re there for you so that you can be there for them!