Every business knows that you should prioritise your customers because they will give you what you need. But when we look at what is essential for building strong relationships and ensuring our customers are satisfied, it’s nothing to do with the marketing or even the product per se, but it’s the ability to communicate. Improving customer communication ensures that we connect better with customers so we can meet their needs. But what is it that we should use and incorporate to connect?
Timeliness in Our Responses
If there is one key aspect that can immediately turn a customer’s perception of us in the wrong direction, it’s when we leave them hanging. Prompt responses to inquiries or problems must be timely, and when we reply quickly, we demonstrate our commitment to addressing consumers and providing excellent service. The major issue here is that we don’t think we can do this properly because we’re not a 24/7 website or business, but this is where tools can create the edge and the perception that you are full-time.
Setting up a chatbot is one excellent tool because when you are in the process of incorporating chat for website connectivity with customers, you’ve got to approach it from the perspective of a business that is able to showcase your 24/7 capabilities. It’s important to remember the iceberg theory here, but actually, it’s just the top of the iceberg that we all see, so if you can show your customers a really good-looking iceberg, this is all you need to elicit trust.
Active Listening and Other Communication Skills
If there is one issue many organisations have in terms of customer communication, it’s that they don’t train their employees to deliver effective customer service because they’re not investing in those employees in the right ways. In a contact centre, which can be overrun with people who don’t want to be there, businesses can easily make the mistake of viewing them as cheap labour. But what happens when you don’t have the right people or, more importantly, don’t reward them appropriately? They won’t deliver what you expect them to.
Great customer service is about, firstly, ensuring those people who deliver it are compensated appropriately, so you can then focus on helping your team develop the fine art of human communication. Active listening and other appropriate communication tools, such as empathy and even proactive listening, as well as tone of voice, are all essential to building relationships with customers. We don’t expect our employees to be amateur psychologists; however, some of the basics, like actively listening while also focusing on what the customer is saying without interrupting and adding clarifying questions, could be all that you need to show a customer that your staff respect them enough to build a solid relationship and to solve the customer’s problem.
We all appreciate the personalised touch, and this is something we need to pass on to the customer. Personalised communications very much depend on the depth of the relationship you have with your customer. For significant customers, it can be appropriate to use their name and ask them about their family and so on. But this would be overfamiliar and off-putting in a more standardised service setting.
There are other less fraught ways of providing an apparently personalised service, such as handwritten thank-you notes for online sales of artisanal goods, signed copies of artwork and books and so on. Think about what could make your product or service more personal for each customer in a low-cost but high value manner.
Providing Multi-Channel Support
A customer should be able to reach out to us in whatever method they choose. This also means that we must respond promptly, as we’ve already touched upon. But if you want to solve a customer problem, you’ve got to meet them on their turf. They may want to use live chats because this provides a barrier between them and the business, so they can communicate at their own pace but also don’t want to get angry. On the other hand, a phone call these days is an incredibly confrontational method of speaking to people, especially when there are customer problems. Other people use social media because it can be a passive-aggressive tool as it allows people to stand on a soapbox and draw attention to themselves based on what their problem is.
When dealing with people, understanding what type of platform they use can provide an insight into what type of person they are, and this can inform you more when solving the customer problem, but also how you can best communicate. There are benefits to each type of communication method; for example, being on the phone is a more upfront way and can potentially result in a problem being solved quicker, but social media requires you to tease out more information from the customer while also waiting for them to reply, which also is relevant to the email approach.
When we allow customers to choose the method that suits them, it also means we can go in potentially pre-prepared. As many customer queries tend to cover the same old ground, we can provide better solutions for them in the moment by using tried and tested templates, but we still need to make sure that it is personable. The key here is to make sure that the customer service agent has their own pre-prepared templates in their tone of voice because if the customer service agent has to create some responses on the fly, there is no mismatch and therefore no suspicion from the customer that they’re speaking to a robot or someone who hasn’t got a clear idea of what they’re talking about.
Many businesses find themselves plodding along until a customer makes a complaint, but rather we need to proactively communicate with our customers by providing relevant information. Tips, updates, and various news items can enhance the customer experience and reduce potential problems. We don’t have to be on the front line ready to solve customer problems, but instead, we can encourage autonomy, for example, via an FAQ section or by having as much information on our website as possible that is easy to access.
On the topic of communication, we also need to remember that the user experience via the website is just as important to give customers a great understanding of who we are and how we can help. Branding is another facet of our personality, so when we have a website and content that aligns with tone of voice, iconography, images, and all the associated components that make a website, you’re putting across your business personality, but you are also empowering your customers further to make decisions.
Empower Your Team
If a customer service team can make decisions and resolve problems without going through the approval process, this will facilitate faster problem resolution but it also demonstrates your trust in your employees. If there’s one thing that we can do to help our contact centre teams and any customer service staff deliver better results, it’s that we show them we can trust them to solve the problem by themselves.
Please note that there is a massive difference between improving autonomy and leaving them to their own devices. So many contact centre environments think that they can leave their team to it and then chastise them for doing something wrong, but this is all down to inadequate training and poor communication from within. Communication is just as important for your colleagues as it is for your customers. So when we empower our team to make decisions based on adequate knowledge, they will be far more likely to do a better job and also feel that they’re not being pressured in any way.
It seems that many industries are now distracted by the KPIs and targets that instantly make people stress out and not deliver, but also feel so fearful that they’re doing something wrong to the point they will burn out very quickly. Empower your team to make decisions and trust that what they’re doing is ultimately for the right reasons. We need to solve customer problems and not be bound by how long it takes us to solve them.
This is one of the biggest problems in delivering customer service in the modern age because companies think that a problem should be solved in 46 seconds or some arbitrary number, but every problem cannot be solved like that because everybody has different problems- if we are hypnotised by metrics and things that don’t solve inherent human problems, that customer who was frustrated in the first place and was given a plaster for a problem rather than a real holistic solution will be annoyed, but you’ve also doubled your workload.
Communication is the tool that binds all of this together. It’s not a numbers game and it never will be, but we’ve gone so far down the track that we think this is the way to deliver results to appeal to stakeholders. In customer service, if you want to be a better business, you need to improve communication more than anything.