Running a successful business goes beyond just selling stuff—it relies on building relationships with your customers so they'll stay with you.
But that… is easier said than done.
While companies think they're doing all the right things and building lasting relationships, their customers don't agree. In his book Wikibrands, author Buzz Canuck says while 80% of business execs believe they're killing it when it comes to building meaningful customer relationships, only 8% of their customers agree.
Advertising won't bridge the gap. Neither will marketing or upselling. No, the way to build deeper relationships with your customers is through regular communication. Being able to communicate effectively can not only create a deeper bond with customers, but it can also increase sales and get people talking positively about your brand.
Here we're going to take a look at why regular communication with customers is a game changer for businesses, and the three real benefits this regular communication flow brings to your company for the long run.
Why regular customer communication is a game changer
In the age of chatbots and tech, nothing wins customers over more than sincere, human-like communication from a company.
A 2018 study by Forrester and Braze found that customers are itching for companies to talk to them and have a friendly, responsive and thoughtful connection with them. The study found that 57% of customers are more loyal to a brand when they have human communication, and 58% said it would increase the chances of them making a purchase. And above all else, what customers really want from a company is for them to be responsive, social, and friendly.
A big driver of communications between a company and its customers is from your customer service department. A Microsoft report found that customer service has a huge impact—96%—on how loyal customers are to a brand. The more proactive you are with regularly communicating with customers, the easier it is to control the message you want your business to be promoting and ultimately, the better your outcomes will be.
An example of a company who has built its core customer base using regular communication is messaging app Slack. The company looks at customer communication not just as a task, but as a way to thoughtfully and intentionally approach their customer's experience with their product.
VP Customer Experience Ali Rayl encourages her team to start conversations with customers and facilitate seamless transactions. She says Slack's customer service agents create a "loop" by tracking questions and calls to really understand who is asking for help and what questions they have.
"The data that we look at isn't just tickets in, tickets out. It's this holistic view of, how are people getting help, and what do they need help with?"
Then, the conversation is handed off to the right department. As Slack's department works closely with the product and engineering teams, they can find ways to change the product for the better.
If we take Slack's (successful) approach to communicating with customers, you can see two wins:
✅ Customers are better looked after because of a more focused approach to communication
✅ Slack benefits by using feedback to understand where improvements can be made
The benefits of regular customer communication stretch far beyond just making your customers happy (although that's a bigbonus!). It's about getting valuable feedback from customers and making the most of that feedback. Keeping the lines open for feedback allows you to get a better grip on what your business is getting right, how you can improve and even take control of your messaging.
Here are the real reasons why regular communication with your customers is beneficial for companies. Hint: they’re all about thinking ahead for the future to make sure you can scale personal communication with your customers.
The benefits of regular communication with customers
1. It can open doors to new markets
Think you know why your customers buy your products? Think again.
Unless you're regularly communicating with your customers, you're only guessing what they're thinking. You don't actually know. If you don't ask, you'll have no idea why they purchased from you, and if they fit into the target persona you've built up.
Here's an example. A company is selling protein powder. They may think that their customer base is people interested in fitness and that they play sports. However, a section of their customers may be actually purchasing from them because the product is vegan, and it's an easy lunch option instead of hitting the company canteen. Without regular communication and feedback, the company may never know this market even exists in their customer base.
Simon Sinek talked about the importance of companies understanding their customer's "why" in his book, “Start with Why”. Sinek says that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. So, it makes sense for companies to always circle back and ask why their customers are buying from them instead of a competitor.
“Companies that study their competitors in hopes of adding the features and benefits that will make their products “better” are only working to entrench the company in what it does," Sinek says.
"Companies with a clear sense of why tend to ignore their competition, whereas those with a fuzzy sense of why are obsessed with what others are doing.”
This type of feedback and information doesn't have to come from lengthy customer surveys, either. Your customer service team can get to know who your customers are and why they love your brand through regular communication. If your team is asking questions and interacting with customers during their buying journey, they can use that as a base to build a relationship with them and get a deeper insight into why they're buying from you.
On the back of this communication, you'll get better data to fuel your next product launch or marketing campaign. If you know why customers are buying, you’ll have a better chance of building on it and being more successful in the future.
2. It's easier to control and navigate messaging
If a customer has a problem, we all know it's best to nip it in the bud early.
Otherwise, you could not only lose them, but you could get some bad public feedback along the way. Avoiding this comes down to how well you control the narrative in the conversation. If your customer knows your company well and you're in regular communication with them, they're more likely to be open and honest about their problem and give you a chance to fix it.
Once you've been given a chance to fix a problem, try to control the tone of the conversation and frame it in a positive way. Our tips for talking to customers:
Mind your manners
Keep it positive
Control the flow of the conversation
Controlling a conversation is one of the best ways to keep customers happy and leave them with a good impression of your company. Doing this requires not only meeting your customers needs, but also anticipating them. Yep, you have to know what your customer wants and thinks before they do.
Apple adopted this customer service approach when they opened their stores. Instead of waiting for customers to ask them questions, the staff keep their ear to the ground and listen out for unresolved issues or concerns.
This led the company to take a more hands-on approach for first-time Apple buyers. They knew if a PC owner was thinking about making the switch to a Mac, they might be apprehensive. So, Apple employees now purposely spend more time with customers and explain in detail about transferring their data from a PC and Mac to make them more comfortable.
The key to even making this happen? Regular communication with their customers.
3. Scaling communication becomes simpler
Keeping on top of customer communications is no small task. And it's even harder when your company starts to grow.
Research by Forrester shows 54% of customers are now using email to talk to customer service channels, making it the most common way to chat with companies. Yet it's crucial that once your company starts to scale that you can stay on top of those emails… and Tweets… and IMs… and phone calls.
By regularly communicating with customers, you'll uncover what channels they prefer to reach out to you on, and you can build them into an omnichannel approach when your business starts to grow. Making this shift early on means it'll be easier to regularly communicate with your customers and allocate problems to the right teams. If a customer has a problem, they'll be diverted to a specialized department. If they want to upgrade, same deal.
Whether it's email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook Messenger or Intercom, the best way to scale is to have your customer's messages land in a single dashboard. Not only will your customers be happy as they're talking to you through their preferred channel, but you can maintain regular communication even as you grow.
Using a tool like Front, you can connect a bunch of communication channels under one roof. A shared inbox means you can have a bunch of different channels open like Twitter, Facebook and email and your team can receive, organize, and respond to customers in all of these platforms directly from the platform.
This is exactly how accounting company Countsy keeps on top of their critical, time-sensitive customer requests. With 100+ remote consultants, the company was struggling to manage customer comms as every question and query was sent to an alias like email@example.com.
Countsy knew if they didn't want customers slipping through the cracks, they needed to make a chance. So, they moved their communications to a shared inbox. Thanks to Front, Countsy now has a separate, shared inbox for every customer. Each time a consultant needs to answer a question or resolve an issue, they can jump into the shared inbox and see what's going on.
Regular communication = better business
We all know we need to talk to our customers to keep them around.
And when you're regularly reaching out to them, you can benefit from those conversations. The more you talk to your customers, the easier it is to take care of them and even preempt their needs are.
Yet there are some major unspoken benefits of regularly communicating with your customers. Not only can it open your eyes to target markets you might've missed (hello, secret customers!), but forging better relationships makes it easier to solve problems when they arise.
And for when your business grows? Well, you'll already know what communication channels your customers prefer and be ready to talk with them… whether it's through a Tweet, an email or a phone call.
Written by Kimberlee Meier
Originally Published: 20 November 2020