Effective customer communication depends not only on what to say, but also which communication channels to use with customers.
Last week, we addressed customer communication, and, while doing so, we identified the three primary channels of communication that businesses and organizations use to communicate with customers:
- the visual channel, which refers to our body language, such as facial expressions and hand gestures;
- the tone channel, which refers to the manner in which we communicate, such as volume and intonation; and
- the verbal channel, which refers to the specific words and phrases we use.
While the first two channels are “non-verbal,” the last channel is “verbal.”
Most importantly, we observed that as the number of channels we use to communicate with customers decreases, the risk of miscommunication increases. Accordingly, while face-to-face communication poses the lowest risk of miscommunication, email, text, and social media communication present the greatest risk of miscommunication.
However, this doesn’t mean that your business should always communicate with customers face-to-face, nor does this mean that your organization should never communicate with customers through email, text, or social media.
Which communication strategies should your business or organization use for customer communication? Consider these practical strategies.
Use face-to-face communication to:
- Build relationships with customers. How often does your business connect with its customers just to talk – that is, not to sell or “upsell” anything, but just to learn more about them, both on a professional and personal level? Indeed, having coffee or lunch with customers presents an excellent opportunity for long-term relationship building.
Use face-to-face or telephone communication to:
- Tell a customer “no.” Because telling a customer “no” is emotional in nature, your business should, at the very least, use the telephone. This provides your organization with the ability to control the “tone” of the conversation.
- Deliver “bad news” to a customer. For the same reason, anytime your business needs to deliver “bad news” to a customer – for example, informing a customer about a late delivery or a cancelled appointment – your organization should, at the very least, use the telephone.
Use email communication to:
- Tell a customer “yes” or “maybe.” Because delivering good news (saying “yes”) or “buying some time” to make a decision (saying “maybe”) is not inherently negative, email doesn’t present as much risk of miscommunication. Therefore, your business can use email to say “yes” or “maybe” to a customer.
- Deliver non-emotionally charged information. What if a customer wants an invoice history from your business? Yes, email is an appropriate channel to communicate this information. Because this type of information poses a minimal risk of miscommunication, your organization can use email in this situation.
- Confirm or document a telephone call. Your business can use email to confirm or document a telephone call, provided that if the communication involved telling a customer “no” or delivering a customer “bad news,” your organization first did so through face-to-face or telephone communication.
(Credit to Tim Sanders: Rule 1: No Bad News Over Email).
Use text communication to:
- Remind customers about appointments. Texting reminders to customers is not only appropriate, but is also a customer expectation. Indeed, texting appointment reminders to your customers can save your business or organization both time and money.
Use social media communication to:
- Share positive reviews or customer compliments. When a customer uses social media to compliment your business or to provide a positive review of your organization, use social media to share that compliment or positive review. Never underestimate the power of positive social media.
This week, take a moment to reevaluate your customer communication strategies to ensure that your business or organization selects the most appropriate communication channel to communicate with its customers.
Next week, we’ll address what your business or organization should do when a customer uses social media to complain online about your business or organization.
In the meantime, have a “customerific” week!