3 Simple Ways to Communicate Better With Your Customers

By Mike Taylor
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Communication is at the heart of human interaction, and it can make or break a business.

Being able to communicate effectively with customers can lead to increased sales, repeat business, and referrals. On the other hand, a less than positive interaction can quickly lead to decreased sales, frustrated customers, and negative word of mouth.

One big question facing businesses in this ever-more-connected society of ours is:

How can businesses improve their communications with customers in order to grow and thrive?

The first place to start is to improve the experience people have when they call your business. Whether you realize it or not, phones are a preferred way to communicate with a business. Consider this stat:

“Phone calls are still the primary channel for customer communications: Social media channels handle just 3% of all customer communications, compared to 68% who contact customer service by phone.”

That means even in an increasingly tech-savvy world, the telephone is still one of the most important mediums of communication between a business and its customers and prospects.

With that in mind, here are 3 ways to improve customer experience and communication over the phone so you can drive business and improve customer experience.

1. Nail the first impression

We’ve all heard that first impressions are everything, and business is no different.

In fact, first impressions are even more important for businesses. Customers can easily send their business to your competition if they decide they don’t like their initial interaction with your company.

One of the easiest ways to botch your business’s first impression is to simply not answer your phone correctly. More specifically, if you’re getting a decent amount of calls on a daily basis and you don’t have an automated system that communicates with callers effectively, it can damage your business more than you may know.

One study found that “more than 8 in 10 consumers (83%) say they will avoid a company or stop giving it business after a poor experience with an automated phone system.”

For many businesses, the first point of interaction with a customer will occur over the phone, so the most effective way to ensure better communication with customers is to put a professional automated answering service (called an auto attendant or “IVR”) in place.

A quality IVR will answer your customers’ calls quickly, with a friendly and professional voice, and route them to the appropriate extension so they’re connected with the right person the first time.

This takes a huge burden off the shoulders of office personnel, makes for a much smoother and effective communication experience, and leaves your first-time callers feeling good about their initial interaction with your business.

Of course, the key to achieving the benefits of an automated answering system is to make sure it’s developed with customer experience in mind.

That leads to the next point.

2. Keep hold times to a minimum

Consider two statistics quoted by Help Scout:

“75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent.”

“In the last year, 67% of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration they could not talk to a real person.”

This isn’t exactly a revelation of any kind, but it is still something many businesses struggle with nonetheless. The bottom line is, people hate holding for longer than a couple of minutes, so take steps to ensure all calls are being routed to the appropriate person or voicemail in a reasonable amount of time.

Again, a good IVR or automated answering system will help limit hold times when setup properly. Another step to take is to use a phone system that can easily provide reports on overall call handling, including wait times in call queues. Monitoring and understanding how effective your employees are at responding to calls is another way to help ensure no caller is left hanging on the line for long periods of time.

So work on putting the right processes and technology in place to ensure callers aren’t placed on hold for long periods of time. It’ll help your business a ton in the long run.

3. Make customer service calls a priority

Customer service is one of the main forms of communication between a customer and a business, so your business can’t afford to drop the ball when it comes to service calls.

One survey found that 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

In other words, when communication breaks down over the phone, people take it personally and they tend to not give you their business.

Here are a few easy ways to improve customer service over the phone:

  • Use an IVR or auto attendant to answer and route calls to avoid lengthy initial hold times.
  • Speak to your customers like real people – that means less scripted and transactional language. And try to frame your language in a positive way rather than a negative one.

Here’s an example:

Negative language: “I can’t get you that product until next month. It is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.”

Positive language: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!”

  • Give your team the right tools that give them better customer insight.

Phone systems nowadays have the ability to sync with customer relationship management (CRM) tools, giving your support team access to customer information – such as their purchase history and recent interactions with your business online and over the phone – that will help them better serve your customers.

  • Focus on becoming the customer’s ally.

Businesses often let limited metrics get in the way of actual problem-solving. Instead of trying only to beat the fastest support time, also focus on metrics that include engaging customers in a meaningful way. Take the time needed to truly resolve the problem as a team (working with the customer), rather than working against the customer to solve their issue. 

Use the tips above to communicate better with your customers and you’ll create better experiences that leave them more likely to buy from you and refer business to you.

Ready to learn more? Watch this on-demand webinar:

IVR Tips Allison Smith

There's One Comment

  • Great post, Mike, and really on point. I agree on your second point which is to keep waiting or holding time to a minimum. This really irritates any customer on call. They’d either hang up or they’ll be in a totally bad mood when you already answer their call. It would add up to the pain of their complaint. By then, you only have a slight chance of communicating well with them.

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About the Author

Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor is a Content Marketing Specialist at Digium. He’s a small business and entrepreneurial enthusiast, and before joining Digium he spent years helping startups and businesses of all sizes grow using content and digital marketing strategies. He covers business and communication topics on Digium’s blog and on other business publications as well.

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