Communication with your customers is everything for your business. It’s how you form connections and strengthen relationships. It’s how you present your brand and market your products and services. And it’s the best way to resolve conflicts and address potential threats to your business.
As we approach the second half 2022, it’s the perfect time to reassess your communications strategies with customers — and build new and better ways to reach your audience.
15 steps to communicate more effectively with customers
These are the most important steps to take to communicate more effectively with your customers:
- Understand your target audience, inside and out.
- Set your priorities.
- Revisit your company values and mission.
- Polish your brand voice.
- Select key communication channels.
- Orchestrate an omnichannel approach.
- Increase face-to-face interactions when possible.
- Be personal, rather than transactional.
- Document your strategy.
- Automate what you can.
- Master the art of timing.
- Follow up.
- Train and educate your employees.
- Establish key metrics and start measuring.
- Improve as you go.
Let’s take a look at each below.
1. Understand your target audience, inside and out
An expert in quantum physics will speak to another expert in quantum physics much differently than they will speak to a 5-year-old child. That’s because these two different people have very different perspectives, values, experiences, and sets of knowledge.
Regardless of what you’re communicating, before you can communicate effectively, you have to understand your audience. Hopefully, you’re already deeply acquainted with your primary target audience, but it doesn’t hurt to do some extra market research to figure out which communication strategies are going to be the most effective.
What types of messaging are most persuasive to this audience? Which channels do they use on a regular basis? What kind of tone elicits a response from them?
Get to know your target audience, inside and out, before you do anything else in your communication strategy.
2. Set your priorities
Customer communication is designed to achieve a number of objectives simultaneously. It can hypothetically increase your reach, help you retain your audience, improve your customer relationships, solidify your brand reputation, and ultimately deepen customer engagement and loyalty.
Obviously, you’ll want to accomplish some of each of these — but which ones are most important for your brand?
If you’re more interested in customer retention than customer acquisition, for example, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach to resource allocation and planning.
3. Revisit your company values and mission
Take the time to revisit your company values and mission. What does your company stand for and what is it trying to accomplish? What is the vision for the future of this company?
These are the foundation on which all of your communication will be built. Each message you send to your customers or associate with your brand should fit squarely within the parameters you set for your brand.
4. Polish your brand voice
Your brand voice is the tone or characteristic of the language you use in all your brand messaging. It’s a somewhat nebulous concept, since we can’t precisely measure the subjective characteristics of speech. But it’s still worth considering and working into your communication strategy.
Is your language more formal or informal? Is it more direct or abstract? Is it more verbose or simple? Define these standards so that you can apply them consistently across all your communication channels.
5. Select key communication channels
Take a moment to decide which communication channels are going to make up the majority of your brand communication strategy.
There are many channels to choose from, such as email, social media, your company website, and all your other marketing and advertising mediums.
Some of these are going to be more powerful communication tools than others, depending on the nature of your target audience, your timing, and other factors; analyze them to figure out which ones are going to serve you best.
6. Orchestrate an omnichannel approach
Even though some of your communication channels are going to be superior to others, you’ll need multiple channels if you want your communication strategy to be a success.
That’s because different channels reach different segments of your audience; for example, some of your customers aren’t going to subscribe to your emails, and some of them may never visit your website.
If you want to reach the greatest percentage of your customers, you need to manage a full portfolio of communication channel strategies. Additionally, each communication channel is going to have key strengths and weaknesses that complement the others.
7. Increase face-to-face interactions when possible
Customer communication usually means reaching out to customers with some sort of digital medium. But it’s also important to incorporate face-to-face interactions wherever possible.
People find it much easier to bond with other people than bonding with abstract brands or companies; a single conversation with an attentively listening human could permanently increase a customer’s loyalty to your brand.
If your business operates entirely remotely, and there aren’t opportunities for physical interaction, you may be able to substitute this with more video conferencing.
8. Be personal, rather than transactional
It’s tempting to see every interaction with the customer as being transactional. Your goal is to provide value so the customer is more likely to work with your brand in the future.
But this mentality tends to lend itself to ineffective conversations and weaker bonds. It’s much better to focus on being genuine and personal in each conversation.
9. Document your strategy
Take the time to document your customer communication strategy, from top to bottom. Explain the brand values that should ground every conversation. Detail the qualities inherent in your brand’s voice. Describe the most important communication channels in the best ways to utilize them.
The more specific you are and the more formal this document is, the better. It’s going to serve as an excellent resource for training and a valuable reference material for customer service reps, marketers, and other professionals on your team responsible for crafting customer communication.
10. Automate what you can
Automation is powerful because it has the potential to save you manual time and effort, thereby reducing costs.
It also increases reliability, since algorithms are less likely to make mistakes than people are.
Automate whatever you can in your communication strategy, such as alerts for follow-up messages, notifications of social mentions, and email drip campaigns.
11. Master the art of timing
An appropriately timed message is always going to be more effective than its inappropriately timed counterpart. Good timing allows you to improve the delivery rate and visibility of your message; it may also help you increase response rates and improve the quality of the conversation.
For example, you’re much more likely to reach people and have an engaging conversation on Tuesday afternoon than on Sunday evening.
12. Follow up
Consider following up with all the messages you sent to your customers individually. You obviously can’t do this for mass-marketed messages, but for one-on-one conversations, it’s extremely powerful.
If you resolve a customer complaint, follow up with a question asking the customer if they’re fully satisfied. If you’re awaiting a response from them, follow up with a repeated request for the information you need.
It shows that you genuinely care about this person’s needs and that you’re paying enough attention to notice that a follow-up is warranted.
13. Train and educate your employees
It’s important to train all your employees in the art of effective customer communication — even if you don’t think they’ll be interacting with customers on a regular basis.
This is because all of your employees need to be customer-centric — and because it’s essential to have all your employees following the same rules and procedures to ensure a consistent brand experience.
14. Establish key metrics and start measuring
Start defining some key metrics that will indicate whether your customer communication strategy is a success. For example, are you searching for a specific customer satisfaction score?
Use surveys and analytics platforms to track customer sentiment as it develops over time.
15. Improve as you go
The best customer communication strategies are ones that develop and adapt over time. This is especially important as you gain more experience and more familiarity with your target audience.
Common pitfalls of customer communication
As you gear up for better communication in H2, be wary of these common pitfalls of customer communication strategies:
If you want your communication strategy to be effective, it needs to be consistent. When customers get mixed signals from different communication channels, or when one of your representatives contradicts another one, customers end up not only confused but disappointed in your lack of organization. This is one reason why it’s so important to have a formally documented communication strategy, complete with guidelines for your brand voice and how to communicate with customers.
Some communication strategies suffer from being misaligned in some way. This is a broad category of potential issues, so just communicating in a way that contradicts your customers’ interests, communicating in a way that violates your brand’s core values, or being tone-deaf when communicating about a sensitive matter.
Timing is vital for effective communication, both so that your recipients have a better chance of reading and comprehending your messages answer that your messaging reaches maximum effectiveness. As a simple example, if you send out a notification that you’re hosting an event in three hours, that doesn’t give your potential participants enough time to prepare for it.
Confusion and lack of clarity
Your messaging needs to be concise and clear if it’s going to be effective. Otherwise, your customers will end up confused. This is most commonly a result of hasty writing or unpolished processes; if you end up with materials that don’t make much sense on paper, your customers may not be able to piece together the mystery of their meaning on their own.
Another major threat in the world of customer communication strategy is complacency. Some brands do a perfectly fine job of communicating with customers, but they get used to the status quo and they no longer seek to improve. Since there’s nothing inherently wrong with their communication strategy, they get by, but they never get to reach their full potential. Also, they open themselves up to the threat of competition; if your communication strategy remains stagnant while your competitors get better and better, it’s only a matter of time before your customers leave you.
When most people think about “customer communication,” they think about marketing. And it makes sense why this is the case; marketing and advertising are your most reliable and most obvious ways to reach customers with your messaging.
On your side are the combined power of content marketing, traditional ads, social media, email blasts, and even active participation in forums.
But there are some customer communication strategies beyond marketing that you also need to pay attention to:
Customer service is a critical opportunity for customer communication. This is usually a two-way street; customers will reach out to your customer service representatives with a question or concern, and your representatives will be responsible for responding to it and engaging in an active dialogue. Note that many customers seeking support will be in a position of dissatisfaction. Accordingly, your communication approach could make or break this person’s perceptions of your brand. Make up for the issue with kindness and courtesy, and you could win a loyal customer for life. Fail to communicate effectively, and you might lose the customer forever.
You can also improve customer communication through community outreach. Use company resources or recruit volunteers from your workforce do you work with local nonprofit organizations or organize community events. It’s a great way to get exposure for your brand, often in service of a good cause, and it gives you a chance to learn more about what your community values.
You can also engage in more communication with the help of strategic partnerships. Working with an influencer in your industry or even a competing business could help you multiply your potential reach in communicating with your customers in new ways.
Better communication leads to better customer relationships. And better customer relationships lead to a stronger, more resilient business.
Spend the rest of H1 and the early months of H2 continuing to refine your communication approach and learning key lessons you can use to support your customer relationships even further.