What does it take to delight customers?
The techniques and methods might vary, but the basics stay the same. And, everyone knows the drill: Listen and encourage customers to speak. Let them drive the conversation. Discover what makes them happy and what turns them off. Keep communication channels open, accessible, and pleasant to gain more insight about customers’ goals and challenges. Gather feedback to accurately determine their sentiment, even as market conditions and consumer behavior shift over time.
The lesson in all that is simple but rock-solid: it takes superb communication to delight your customers and achieve sustained success for your business.
Only when you see with your customers’ eyes will you be able to offer something that squarely solves their problems or genuinely makes them feel good. And, only then will you be able to translate their trust into a revenue stream for your business. Ultimately, every item on your wish list – product innovation, process improvements, and profit growth – depends on actionable conversations with your customers.
On the flip side, poor communication causes confusion, disappointment, loss of trust, and customer attrition. To put numbers on the problem, a PRovoke Media survey reported that poor communication costs large companies in the US and UK an average of US$62.4 million in lost productivity per year.
Sadly, many businesses today still run fragmented communication systems that lead to disjointed messaging and disengaged customers. When you have separate platforms (for email, phones, chat, SMS, and other communication channels), communication gaps will inevitably arise. Left on their own, these gaps can undermine process efficiencies, blindside your frontline staff, overlook/misdiagnose customer issues, and erode the impact of your message.
While a poor communication apparatus may not literally cost you millions, it will still hurt your business substantially.
Fortunately, there are simple, practical ways to improve how you communicate with, and engage, customers. Here are some of them:
Simple ways to communicate better with customers
1. Streamline your tools. Start by making an audit of the tools all your customer-facing teams use to connect with, and engage, people. Because these teams form your company’s revenue engine, the tools they use should at least be decent and interoperable – if not top-of-the-line. Making do with outdated/fragmented tools will likely bog down workflows across your teams and cause serious miscommunication down the line.
Ensure that sales, marketing, customer service, customer success, and other teams in your revenue engine use the same tools, messaging resources, and datasets. This reinforces consistency, relevancy, and effectiveness when it comes to communicating with customers, analyzing their issues, and solving their problems.
An effective way to do this is to adopt a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, where data sharing across all customer-facing teams helps your people deliver fast, consistent, and effective service to customers.
An even better solution is to adopt a single, comprehensive platform that provides all your communication needs for customer engagement. The best of these platforms are cloud-based services, often referred to as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), a solution for businesses of any size that wish to thrive in the digital economy. Among the preeminent UCaaS brands currently on the market is Nextiva, a multi-awarded suite that often tops the list of third-party reviews and rankings. UCaaS enables companies to focus on growing their business by providing streamlined communications services that are flexible, scalable, and affordable.
There are many benefits when you use UCaaS:
- Reduced operational and maintenance expenses, compared to traditional phone lines and outdated IP-based telephony.
- Improved staff productivity and business performance.
- Modular option to expand features, such as chatbot support and automated feedback/survey capabilities.
- Built-in (native) CRM support for enhanced customer engagement.
- Strong support for mobile computing and communications. Staff can work virtually anywhere using smartphones.
- Improved employee mobility and team collaboration.
- Generally greater transparency and simplicity when it comes to subscription fees compared to conventional arrangements with telecom service providers.
2. Expand your channels. Customers rarely stay put. Neither should you. In the age of AI-assisted chatbots and augmented reality, never leaving your comfort zone could spell doom for your business, especially when your competitors are finding, and engaging, your customers elsewhere.
Even if email or phone communication has been adequate in the past, it won’t hurt to expand your horizons. Social media, professional networks, online chat, messaging apps, and video conferencing (webinars) are just some of the newer channels where you will likely find many of your customers. It’s your job to reach customers at the channel, and in the manner, they prefer. Ignore this and you forego valuable opportunities to spark conversation and provide excellent experiences.
Fortunately, current technologies make it easy for businesses to build a presence on every channel their customers use. In fact, UCaaS already provides omnichannel capabilities, enabling your customer-facing teams to reach or respond to customers, using the devices and communication channels they prefer.
Here are some additional tips you when expanding/optimizing communication channels:
- Having a reliable UCaaS tool is just half the battle. You still need to determine which specific channels each of your market segments and individual customers prefer. That’s because on top of personal preferences, different customer demographics also tend to favor specific communication channels. For example, most Gen-Z consumers prefer to communicate using messaging apps and Instagram rather than Facebook. Meanwhile, there are significantly more males (62%) than females (38%) who use Twitter.
- Use feedback and interactive features to spur customer involvement. Having a channel on YouTube or Instagram is great, but getting your audience to share their opinions and give feedback about your post, content, or message is even more awesome. That means enabling your target market to comment on blogs, videos, and podcasts should be your default option. You can build active online communities by making it easier for your audience to start or join conversations. Be sure to always respond to customer feedback.
- Display the links to all your relevant channels on every content you publish or share. If you have a YouTube channel, for example, you can use your profile/about page to display links to your other, sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
- Use chat messaging to enhance self-service experience on your website. Many site visitors now use on-site chat messaging to get the information they need fast. Depending on your business, budget, or the nature of customer queries, you can have human agents and chatbots to engage site visitors.
- Embrace SMS text messaging. More than 60% (or 4.78 billion) of people around the world have cell phones. Sending your customers a text message about things they care about is a great way to stay connected with your market. Moreover, texting is generally more convenient than using a phone or email, and text messages are more likely to be read than any other content.
- Video communication is on the rise. Video is a great way for presenting a product or service. In the form of webinars, online courses, and DIY tutorials, it is also a proven method for learning different subjects and skills. Use video to inform, entertain, and wow your customers.
- Build online communities on the most promising channels your customers use. Chat groups, forums, and other communities serve as excellent venues for driving customer interactions, gathering feedback, and analyzing sentiment.
3. Elevate the experience. Customer experience greatly impacts the way people perceive your brand and react to your messaging. You can never over-fixate on this crucial aspect of your business. Here are some ways to enhance your customers’ journey:
- Make customers’ first impressions about you count. Here is where the business mantra, “Do it right the first time,” squarely applies. When customers call you up, never make them wait for too long and always give them a warm welcome. When they send an email, reply promptly. Solve their problems as fast as possible. Make customers believe that they can always rely on your support team for a quick and effective resolution of their issues. Adopt technologies, such as IVR and other automated systems, to extend the capabilities of your human assets.
- Speak the language of your customers. Study your audience and communicate with them using the language they understand, the tone they prefer, and the cultural symbols they celebrate. Hire staff from diverse backgrounds and use technology (such as translation apps) to help align your engagement strategies and messaging scripts with those of your audience.
- Optimize your main website. Use chatbots, interactive graphics, a self-service portal, and other mechanisms to enhance the utility and attractiveness of your homepage to your audience. Link to your other communication channels to make it easy for customers to jump from the site to the specific channel they prefer. Use site analytics and heat maps to determine the topics and issues that matter most to each of your customers. Through compelling content, explore those topics and issues to address problems, build trust, and drive positive buying decisions.
- Build a library of explainer videos, infographics, podcasts, and webinars to keep customers knowledgeable and updated about your services. While the primary purpose of these materials is informative, you can unleash them on social media, video platforms, and other channels to drive conversation and attract new customers.
- Involve customers in the design and evolution of your products and services. Leveraging all the channels your customers use, invite them to participate in the improvement of existing products or the development of new ones. Gather their comments, opinions, and feedback on how you can make your services better. Create a fun and attractive rewards program to motivate customers, and incentivize the most meaningful efforts and contributions. Doing this achieves two important goals: send the message that you value your customers and effectively improve your products and services by integrating the inputs of people who actually use them.
- Always request for feedback at opportunities, touchpoints, and moments where customers are more likely to share their views. Make it super convenient, easy, and fun for them to participate in surveys, contests, games, and polls. Offer unique, relevant, and compelling rewards for participation.
The quality of customer interactions with your brand ultimately impacts your financial performance. That means any investment in tools, talent, and techniques that enhance your customer communications apparatus will eventually pay off. And, because customer service and experience constitute the new battleground where competitors duke it out for market dominance, expect a huge ROI down the road.
In some sense, not investing in a communications upgrade is almost synonymous with surrendering to the field. Using disjointed tools and incoherent messaging almost always leads to customer frustration, decreased revenue, and negative publicity for your company.
To prevent backlash against your business, consider some of the tactics we cited here. You can focus on the process most relevant to your operations. You can explore different UCaaS vendors to discover what each can offer as benefits. And, you can start getting familiar with the different channels your customers use.
What you can’t do is ignore the imperative for change and the golden opportunity for action.