5 Tips for Improved Customer Communications

customer communication

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.

Fortunately, there are many ways to connect with your customer base (and to address prospective customers as well). 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.

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Want to learn more about quality customer communications? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

 

Crisis Communications Tips for SME Business Owners

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As much as we’d like to believe it, a public relations crisis doesn’t always happen to some other business. In this era of instantaneous digital technology, even a small customer complaint can blow up overnight into a full-blown crisis. But while it’s inaccurate to say that such a crisis is inevitable, nonetheless small business owners who plan ahead for the unforeseen are generally better equipped to weather the storm than those who have no crisis communications plan in place.

Here are tips to help you formulate a plan of action when a crisis strikes, as well as general principles, to guide your conduct during a difficult time:

1. Engage with media and the public, rather than try to outsmart them. Let’s assume that the nature of the crisis—be it a product recall, a data breach, a surprise legal claim against your business, alleged employee criminal behaviour, etc.—meets the criteria for a necessary public response. In such cases, expect that the demand for information will likely include what happened, why it happened, what solutions are being considered and how your customers will be reimbursed for their troubles.

PR specialists advise:

  • Acknowledge the problem or crisis—say “we know what is happening and we are doing something about it.”
  • Stick to the facts and don’t speculate.
  • Be honest and transparent and don’t try to cover or obscure the issue.

In other words, tell the truth.

2. Select a single spokesperson to represent your business. In many cases, it falls to the owner or CEO to stand up for a company under media siege. Sometimes this responsibility is assigned to a media or PR representative. Whatever the situation, it’s imperative to select one individual to represent your business and to allow no one else to act as an “additional” spokesperson. Many PR mishaps only get more complicated when two or more people step forward to defend the company.

3. Remain calm in the eye of the storm. It’s asking a lot of an individual, but the most effective public persona to strike in the midst of a crisis is staying calm. If you’re the spokesperson, you will be “bombarded by doubts, questions, negativity, and grievances as you struggle to lead your company and your team. Keep a steady hand on the tiller and “don’t succumb to frustrations, panic, or anger, as your staff is going to be looking up to you to discover a solution.”

4. Think before speaking out on social media. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be enormously helpful in getting your message out. But they can also be filled with perilous forums in which you and your business can get mired in seemingly endless negative chatter.

When a crisis strikes, you obviously can’t avoid referring to it on your social media networks. At the same time, remember to never get into back-and-forth exchanges with trolls or anyone else who seeks to bring further damage to your company’s reputation.

The best advice is to take a deep breath before composing and sending a message.

“Publish a neutral statement showing you’re aware of the situation and that you’re investigating the matter,” “Do not go into details of what happened just yet, before you get the full picture, and don’t make any comments acknowledging or rejecting any fault.”

Of course, prior to holding a press conference or issuing a statement, you should consult with a solicitor who has a good experience of being in the middle of crisis communications. They might wish to err on the side of extreme caution, so the most effective approach may be to weigh their legal advice against the potential damage to your brand if you choose to say or do nothing at all. We have a number of TAB lawyer members in Dublin who have such experience.

Remember, your ultimate priority during any crisis is to preserve the trust of your customers.

Want more advice on crisis management or general advice from other business owners like you? Contact us to see if we can be of assistance. 

 

4 Ways to Turbocharge Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

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It’s a safe bet that most of your customers are active on social media. Therefore, it stands to reason that your marketing efforts should include reaching out to existing and prospective customers on various social media platforms. But this form of marketing differs from more traditional approaches and if you’re not careful, you risk alienating potential customers who thrive on social media because they don’t want to be subjected to a hard sell.

So how can you leverage the increasingly powerful resource of social media and boost your company’s marketing efforts? Here are four effective strategies to implement:

1. Know where your target audience “lives” on social media. It may be initially tempting to build your company’s presence across the vast spectrum of social media platforms. But the ROI on this approach is minimal since not everyone wants or needs your product or service. Instead, do the necessary research to determine where your target audience hangs out—be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. By concentrating your efforts on one or two channels, you greatly increase the potential for gaining the right kind of followers, in the numbers you’re looking for.

2. Offer content your customers want and need. Social media marketing is a natural extension of your content marketing efforts. By generating informative and useful content, you establish a bond with your customers, which can translate into increased sales and loyalty over the long run. And the best place to promote your content offerings is on your social media platforms.

Just make sure that the content you offer isn’t overtly self-promotional. Focus on producing blog posts, articles, white papers and videos that “provide some key insight in your industry or tell [the audience] something they didn’t know before.”

Then tweet or post a link to this value-rich content and invite your followers to comment on the material and offer insights of their own. Over time, this builds a community of like-minded people that’s a fertile breeding ground for new sales leads.

3. Include a call-to-action (CTA) wherever possible. Yes, we said don’t be self-promotional, but on the other hand, neglecting to include a “next step” for interested consumers amounts to a wasted opportunity. On every social media platform you occupy, there’s a place for your business profile. Always craft a profile that’s enticing to prospective customers, but one that also includes links to your website’s homepage and/or other pages with sales offers and giveaways.

The same principle applies to the content you promote on social media. These articles, blog posts and white papers should include a link towards the end that takes users directly where you want them to go. Links going to your home page from a social media post “are wasted clicks,” notes online marketing expert Jonathan Long. “Nobody has time to try to find offers. Send them directly to your offers, and this will greatly increase your conversion rates.”

4. Listen to what customers are saying. Social media marketing isn’t just about strategies to push content on your followers. Social media is first and foremost about community, and your marketing efforts will be doubly effective if you pay close attention to the topics and concerns expressed by others on your chosen platforms. As time passes, users will respond to your content, but they’ll also have things to say about your products or services (good, bad and ugly), and they expect you to be listening.

Whenever possible, respond to comments and reactions to the content you provide. Always be respectful and, at all costs, avoid getting into ugly online squabbles. These achieve nothing except to tarnish your reputation. Instead, thank commenters for offering feedback and—if those comments focus on product shortcomings or issues—promise to do all you can to make future improvements.

Social media marketing is a great way to increase brand awareness, as long as your strategies accommodate the “rules” of this new frontier.

Want more advice on social media marketing? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!!

 

Using Twitter to Promote Your Business

Behind the hype surrounding Twitter is a tool that offers “word-of-mouth” marketing potential, but on the internet. You can use Twitter to promote your business and build customer loyalty by allowing customers to become connected to you and your brand. While it won’t close a sale on its own, it will improve chances that your followers will purchase from you. Here are some tips to make your “tweets” (Twitter posts) more effective.

    • Include a link to your website or to the URL you are referencing.

 

    • When you discover something related to your industry, go ahead and tweet about it.

 

    • Ask questions and work to start conversations with your followers. This is a great way to get direct feedback on your buyers’ views and interests.

 

  • Don’t constantly push your brand. Let prospects learn about you and build a personal bond. Remember, each tweet is limited to 140 characters. Be concise and keep it personal.