When it comes to operating a successful business, nothing’s more important than communicating effectively with your customers. Adopting the wrong tone in your marketing or sales messages, neglecting to reach out in formats where customers generally “live” and failing to reply to inquiries in a timely way can damage your brand now and into the future.

I was visiting the online shoe retailer Zappos.com not too long ago, and one comment struck me particularly hard as we were given the tour… “here at Zappos we invest 95% of our marketing budget in customer service.” It’s a fascinating concept and obviously works for a number of successful companies. But let’s take a closer look, is it really moving the budget to ‘customer service’ or is it teaching all customer facing team members to use marketing effectively. You be the judge.

Fortunately, there are many ways to connect with your customer base (and to address prospective customers as well). When it comes to operating a successful business, nothing’s more important than communicating effectively with your customers. Here are five tips on improving your efforts at customer communications and reaping the benefits of a stronger relationship:

1 - Use language that your customers use. All too often, businesses forget that their customers rarely understand the intricacies of their products or services as well as they do. Their written and verbal communications occasionally lapse into the use of technical terms, acronyms or other industry-specific jargon that “normal people” don’t understand.

For this reason, it’s vital that your customer service representatives speak clearly and avoid using any potentially confusing business terminology. When speaking on the phone, these individuals must be able to answer questions and offer guidance in a language understood by the vast majority of your customers.

2 - Describe your business in 30 seconds or less. We all know about the value of having a good elevator speech. Being able to succinctly describe what you do and how your products/services benefit people is a key element of successful customer communications.

If you haven’t already done so, put together this elevator speech and make it as concise and appealing as possible. The business site Bytestart advises that you try out your elevator speech on people outside the walls of your business since this can help determine “if you’re speaking in an appealing way to someone outside your company.”

3 - Increase your social media presence. Chances are, you already have a social media presence—but are you doing all you can to leverage that presence with respect to customer communications? One place to start is by creating a Facebook community, where you can continuously post updates and special offers to an established group of fans and followers. You can also invite them to share their thoughts on your business, good or otherwise, as long as you stay on top of the online discussion and respond honestly and in a timely manner.

4 - Focus on what’s important to customers, not what matters to your business. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other sites, keep in mind that the focus is on the customer, not your business. Sure, you can report on news and product updates, etc., but also “get in the habit of sharing content that your target audience would enjoy reading or watching,” says marketing expert Mike Templeman. Such content can range from “funny memes or [a] heart-warming video” to value-added tips on how to address nagging business problems. As long as your content is informative and engaging, you’re communicating with your followers.

5 - Always reply to customers as quickly as possible. One of the most frequently mentioned customer grievances is the slowness with which businesses respond to their questions or complaints. By implementing policies that result in prompt customer replies, you’ll likely have a strong differentiator from competitors. Look for quality automated answering systems that keep “hold time” to an absolute minimum. Or, when possible, reply to inquiries with an after-hours or weekend email, letting customers know their concerns are on your mind. This helps build trust and serves as a foundation for long-term loyalty.

Be on the lookout for opportunities to enhance your own abilities to listen and communicate. Also take measures to ensure your customer-facing employees are doing all they can to represent your business in an attentive, caring fashion.

Interested in other sales and marketing strategy? We recommend (well we would) – Exactly Where You Want to Be – the best-selling book. Available on Amazon and at all good bookshops (if they still exist where you live).

If you're interested in Middle East targeted marketing – then contact our ME team.

If you want to get your international sales and marketing teams aligned – whatever country focus you have – then contact us in California.

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