Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

Business can’t exist without customers. And customers need constant care if they are to continue working with your business.

Making and keeping customers are always worth the investment of time and energy. In fact, it’s five times more expensive to pull in new customers than to enjoy repeat business from your current ones. Keeping your customers content is a tremendous cost savings. Customers certainly don’t shy away from sharing their negative experiences with companies on sites like PissedConsumer.com.

So how do you keep customers happy? You communicate with them.

But here’s the rub: customers are happiest when you communicate with them in the right way. Sending emails and posting clever social media messages isn’t enough.

You need an ongoing dialogue with your customers.

Customer communication is a dialogue

In the world of manufacturing products, the speed of manufacturing was often the most limiting factor to success. If you can’t make enough of your product, you can’t keep the customers happy. But many companies aren’t dealing with slow manufacturing. In modern times, customer satisfaction stems from communication with the company.

Too often, we rely on advertising teams and the customer service department to handle customer satisfaction. We tell them about the product, push for the sale and then handle any issues or the occasional angry customer in an entirely different department.

True customer communication isn’t two one-way streets. Your advertisers telling the customer what to buy in one spot, and over there, a call centre fielding consumer complaints.  Modern customer communication is a dialogue—a two-way street.

The benefits of interacting with customers

Advertisements, email blasts, and even viral social media posts are one-way messages. You are talking to the customer and hoping they will respond the way you want them to: with more sales. This is the traditional model of marketing, but modern customers want more from businesses.

Customers want conversation.

Online reviews reward the companies that communicate with customers. Positive reviews praise the rapid feedback and how well a company interacted with the customer with questions before, during, and after a purchase. Negative reviews lambast companies that push the sale and then fail to follow up or drop the ball on future questions or concerns.

Effective communication happens with both business to customer messages, and customer to business messages can happen simultaneously. Not separately. Not in different departments, through different mediums, at different times. A dialogue. A conversation. Whether you rely on phone calls, business text messages, emails, or video chats, you must have the command to drive your point home clearly in all mediums.

Creating a dialogue with customers

Customers want a conversation, and there are plenty of ways to create one within your business model. Business marketing tips have shifted to include this medium, and brands are becoming more inclusive of real-time feedback and interaction. Ready to create a dialogue with your current and future customers? Here are some business tips to get started.

Create an interactive FAQ on your website.

Customers want answers as quickly as possible. An interactive FAQ online makes this possible, and it is adaptable as new questions or solutions arise. Using software on your site, customers can simply type in a query and find the answer they are looking for.

Keywords, associated questions, and simple instructions on related topics or next steps can help customers find information as quickly as they need without having to pick up the phone.

Keep phone lines open and available.

On the other hand, many customers value being able to pick up the phone and speak to a “real person” when they have questions. Using AI, or artificial intelligence, to help guide customers through an interactive FAQ section might satisfy those looking for direct feedback quickly. Still, others want to establish a back-and-forth discussion about the issue.

Sometimes these customers simply need someone to hear them when they have a frustration, and well-trained customer service representatives can turn a frustrated customer into a dedicated one by listening, meeting the customer where they are, and helping to find a solution.

It’s worth noting that a very large percentage of negative online reviews about companies stem from customers not being able to reach someone on the phone when they feel they need to.

Create chat options for customers.

While some customers prefer picking up the phone and speaking with someone, many others, especially your younger customers, prefer a typed conversation through a chat medium. Allow customers to open a chat feature on your site or app with questions.

Typed communication can even be started with AI and moved to customer service as needed, streamlining communication for both company and customer while still providing authentic feedback and dialogue.

Make communication options easy to find.

Your website and app are likely dedicated to making the sale. But consider shifting your messaging to include strong and clear options for interacting with the company at any time in the purchase process. Large icons to open a chat feature on the homepage. The phone number in multiple places. Clear headings and links to FAQ pages for more help.

A customer with a question or a frustrated customer having an issue doesn’t want to climb through your pages looking for an obscure site reference for what to do next. They want to see immediately that you are available for all questions and have easy ways to get in touch. Proudly marketing your communication options builds tremendous customer trust.

Open communication lines you can manage.

It does no good to have multiple communication options available if you can’t manage them. Proudly displaying communication options might build customer trust but having a two-hour way on the phone for answers will rapidly destroy it, possibly leading to frustrated, negative reviews that diminish your brand in widespread ways.

Create communication lines that allow conversation with customers, but don’t create a system you can’t maintain.

Be deliberate with your social media presence.

Customers are on social media, and they are aware of what companies are posting. Many companies have built a strong brand around their social media presence and personality. Your social media presence is an extension of your brand, and customers will interact with your social media accounts publicly.

That means you need to consider the personality you want your accounts to have and how you’d like customers to interact on your page. Be deliberate about the channels you open for customer interaction.

Have a brand and style guide for responses and posts. Be consistent across your channels and be deliberate in which social media channels you create. Don’t open more channels that you can comfortably maintain.

Meet customers where they are.

Customers are online, and they are leaving feedback and reviews on their own social media accounts, on your social media accounts, through your website, through private messages on social media, and on review websites and forums.

If customers are complaining or asking questions about your product online, you need to be there. Use online alerts to bring new posts and questions to your or your team’s attention. Monitor review sites for new mentions or complaints. Look for posts and tags online.

Then interact with those messages. Publicly when possible. Even if that public message is asking the person posting to message you privately to discuss the issue personally.

Enjoy public dialogue.

As often as possible, meet customers online in positive ways and engage in public dialogue. Use social media to solicit feedback and start conversations. Send branded representatives into forums and online communities to answer questions or ask for feedback.

Answer questions publicly and reply to feedback with follow-up questions. Not only does this show others that you legitimately care about what they are saying (which is huge for building repeat customers), you will also get terrific feedback about how to improve your product and services.

Create a culture of responsiveness.

A dialogue creates two pathways of information. You are speaking to your customers about your products and services. And they are speaking to you about what they want, how your products meet their needs, and what services they need.

We often listen before we make the sale, but we need to keep listening long after. Gather the information and then respond. Listening to what customers are saying is only meaningful if you put their feedback into action.

Customers are more discerning than ever about the businesses they work with. They want to know your business, and that level of knowledge is only possible through timely communication. Open pathways for customer feedback and be intentional and open about how you respond.

We all like to feel heard and seen. Why not make customers feel valued by being the company that cares about what they have to say?