The age of the internet and social media has opened doors for online communications, allowing business owners to communicate instantly with customers across the globe.
Communicating with your customers is one of the most important elements of a successful business. By communicating effectively with customers, and with other business people, entrepreneurs can build positive brand reputations, professional credibility and work opportunities.
Who is the customer?
Knowing your customer is essential to good business and good communications. Different customers respond to products, services and communications in different ways, and they have different expectations for interactions. Work to define and understand who your average customer is by asking yourself the following questions:
Who’s buying what you’re selling?
Most products and services target customers in specific niches. Consider the age, gender, location, culture, occupation and socio-economic background of the buyers your business typically serves, then consider the expectations and communications styles of people from these demographics.
What value are your customers looking for?
Business is all about adding value to the lives of your customers. Think about what value your business offers your customers and how this informs the kinds of customers who approach it.
How does your customer buy?
There are lots of different ways to shop. Consider how your customers make buying and financial decisions. Think about the questions they’re likely to ask and the answers they’ll be looking for.
How could you find out more?
If you’re looking to define your typical customer more clearly, you might like to conduct some market research. If you choose to do this, ask demographic questions and questions about purchase decision-making. Find out how existing customers found your business and what made them choose you over the competition.
You might also benefit from creating buyer (or marketing) personas, which are fictional, generalized representations of the customers your marketing and communications should be targeting.
Taking steps toward better business communication
Defining your business tone
Branding goes beyond colors and typography. One of the most important aspects of branding is tone. Defining a consistent communication tone for your business will help to improve brand recognizability and memorability, and it will help you to build a sense of rapport with customers.
Consider the language used by your average customer. A baby boomer buyer is unlikely to respond to millennial lingo, but it could be just what the millennial buyer ordered. Think about where your communications are taking place and what kind of tone is appropriate to the content of your marketing and products or services. A travel company, for example, could benefit from a fun, laidback tone, but a medical supplies company would probably do better with something a little more formal.
Email and communications templates
Templates are never a one size fits all, but they are a good idea when it comes to streamlining communications and avoiding accidental omissions of important details. Create flexible, editable templates or guidelines for different communications circumstances.
You might plan templates for the following:
— New customer inquiries
— Portfolio and/or product overview
— Service complaints
— Information submission
If your business is product-based, does your customer need to provide a postal address, email or phone number? If your business is service-based, will you need personal or professional information? Create clear, easy to understand questions that your customer can answer to tell you everything you need to know.
Waiting customers become frustrated and are likely to seek goods or services elsewhere. Work to respond to communications as quickly as possible.
For new businesses, round the clock phone or email availability is usually unrealistic, so it’s a good idea to set expected response times or set up automated systems. You might outsource to support or communications representatives, or you might use a live chat app on your website that allows you to speak to more than one customer at a time.
Nobody wants to feel forgotten. Make sure to keep careful track of all customer communications in order to avoid accidentally forgetting to complete jobs or deliver products. Create thorough to-do lists and keep them up to date.
Be clear, accurate and patient
You know your business well, but your enquiring customer doesn’t. Make sure that all communications are clear and accurate. Keep information up to date and explain details effectively but concisely, while avoiding condescension. Be patient with miscommunication issues and customers who need further questions answered.
As your business grows, you’ll find that certain questions pop up more commonly than others. Pay attention to these—they outline areas of explanation where your website is probably lacking.
As you discover which queries are most common, it’s a good idea to streamline responses by creating a list of frequently asked questions. An FAQ page on your website will help to save you time and will help customers to more clearly understand what you offer. Write questions and responses in Q+A format. Even if customers continue to approach you the same questions as before, you’ll have a web page to direct them to, or at least a clear, thought-out answer to refer to yourself.
Quality conclusions and calls to action
Including calls to action at the end of business communications is a great way to engage customers and create foundations for a strong working relationship. Calls to action can also help to show attentiveness, encourage continued communications and direct customers toward sales.
Try finishing emails and/or phone calls with:
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Does this sound like something you’d be interested in?”
“Do you have any further questions?”
“You might like to browse our [portfolio, products or services], available at [link to webpage]”
Unfortunately, in business, you’ll never make everyone happy. All business owners deal with occasional negative reviews and unhappy customers, and it’s important to be prepared with strong, professional communications skills.
Resolve customer conflicts by maintaining a humble approach, even when the customer is wrong. Offer solutions to complaints, follow up when necessary and know how to move on with confidence. It’s a good idea to prepare your professional communications approach to common issues such as lost or damaged goods, non-paying customers and poor reviews.