As an online business owner, it can be overwhelming to mull over the hundreds of online tools at your disposal. There are a bajillion and one resources popping up and being pushed at you day after day, but the best decisions for you and your business depend on a myriad of factors: your specific product or service, goals, growth, and so much more. Hopefully, I can help shed some light on the decision-making process when it comes to one essential category: how to communicate with your customers.
The tools you use to communicate with your customers impact your level of service, which in turn can make or break your relationship with a customer or your audience as a whole.
There are so many benefits of creating a robust communications system with customers using your product, or prospective customers who are interested in using it; doing so is advantageous not only for them but for you, as well. A solid communications strategy:
- Improves the customer’s experience
- Increases audience engagement
- Retains customers
- Grows brand awareness
- Saves time and resources
First and foremost, it’s important to be preemptive. If you read my last post, you know making a plan is essential. Think about the “whys” and the “ways” you’ll need to communicate with your customers and map your thoughts out ahead of time. The whys: does your customer get in touch with you when they have a question, complaint, or feedback?
Next, comes the ways: what channels can you provide so that you can easily receive and address their questions, complaints, and feedback? In choosing which tools to implement, you must consider what your product is (physical good or service), the most frequent outreach from your customer base that you receive, what your typical customer demographic is, the resources your business has available to allocate to external communications tools, and more.
Once you have a strong understanding of these elements, you can choose the right modes of communication and tools for your business. As I mentioned above, there are so many resources out there, both free and paid for. Below I stuck to brass tacks and laid out several fundamental, essential, and easy-to-implement ways to communicate with your customers that you can add to and check off your list — again bearing in mind your specific product and the variables outlined above. If you wish to dive deeper into your outreach strategy, consider hiring an Online Business Manager (OBM) like myself to help you achieve your customer communications goals.
Modes of Communication
– Cover the basics and create an email address and phone line for your business. Make sure your voicemail and any system prompts are easy to understand and always up to date. Similarly, when customers send emails they should receive thoughtful and clear automated responses.
– Get ahead of the customer’s need to reach out by using your website to its full potential. When you make information easily accessible to your customers on your website, less will feel the need to communicate directly with you. Create a FAQ page and make it as thorough — but clear and easy-to-understand — as possible. Think about the questions your customers will have (e.g., about your return/refund policy) and make sure that information is readily available on the relevant webpages. In addition, this is something that’s easy to overlook, but update your website with all changes and announcements (e.g., new policy or payment method, product changes) not only on the relevant webpages, but also in the news section, homepage, or via a pop-up/notification bar. You can also direct customers to the website should they reach out to you with questions related to the information you’ve already provided there.
– Assuming you have a website set up, consider adding a live chat feature — if you have the resources to do so (i.e., an employee who can answer customers in real-time). Providing a quick tool to customers and resolving their questions or issues quickly is a vital element of top-notch customer service, and could help keep your customers coming back or make them more likely to recommend your product to their networks.
– Enable online scheduling capabilities that allow customers to book, cancel, and pay for appointments, cutting back on the time spent answering phone messages and emails — and the time spent on hold or waiting for a response email on the customer’s part. This is also a clever way to collect customer information, such as their email address and phone number, allowing you to set up automated text confirmations at the time of booking and/or closer to the appointment, as well as add them to your email subscriber list.
– Develop an email list consisting of your customer base by creating a subscribe option on your website and ensure that anyone who makes a purchase or uses your chat function is opted-in to your subscriber list. This will allow you to send emails or newsletters with announcements, updates, and important information to your audience.
– Focus on your social media presence. By creating social accounts, you can create an online community tuned into product information and offerings, allowing you to also make public announcements when important updates or changes are made, increase awareness around your product or service, and more. You can also use social media to chat with customers and answer questions in a less formal way, creating a sense of real human connection. Which social media options you move forward with will largely depend on what your product or service is and the demographic of your typical customers.
Whatever you decide for your business’ means of communicating, make sure your business’ contact information is available everywhere — on your website’s “contact us” page, on your social media accounts, etc. Regardless of where your customers are connecting with your business, they should be able to seamlessly figure out how to contact you in a quick, painless way.
While the above offers a breakdown of the ways in which you can communicate with your customer base, of course, you must also consider your business’s voice. This deserves its own blog post, as does the topic of “brand image,” but my best advice is to keep content succinct, clear, and consistent. Determine the voice you would like to convey and make sure that anyone who is communicating on your business’ behalf is sticking with that tone, no matter which mode of communication. In addition, make responses as timely as possible and tell your customers how long it will take to get back to them through the automated responses they receive when they reach out via email, social media, and even live chat (after hours). Timeliness — and more importantly, sticking with the response time that you promised — is vital to keeping your customers happy.
Thanks for joining me on The Virtual Momma blog. My hope is that this post will assist you in connecting in a more effective and meaningful way with your audience, resulting in more successful sales of your product of service and long-term growth.