4 Tips That Improve Communication With Customers
Posted on August 10, 2018 by Denny Leffel
A great customer experience starts with effective communication. If you’re looking to improve your customer interaction, try out these four tips for communicating with customers.
1. Treat Customers Like People — Not Numbers
Customers want to feel like you care about them as an individual. According to a survey by SalesForce, 84 percent of customers reported that being treated like a person rather than a number is very important to winning their business. You can improve this facet of your customer communications in a few simple ways.
- Offer customer feedback surveys. Let your customers know that you value their feedback, and be sure to follow up on any questions or complaints expressed in the survey.
- Build customer relationships. When customers come into your restaurant or store, focus on forming a relationship rather than making a sale. Make customer service a priority, and sales will naturally follow. This is especially important for small businesses.
- Personalize communication with customers. Customers appreciate being treated like individuals. Rather than offering the same greeting and small talk to all of your customers, try to be more personal in your conversations. An interaction with a first-time diner, for instance, should sound different than one with your restaurant’s regulars.
- Provide custom recommendations. Anticipate your customer’s needs based on past interactions with your business and recommend new menu items and services accordingly. When executed well, these recommendations can help you build trust.
- Keep customers in the loop. Let your customers know about policy changes, current promotions, and new menu items as well as any unpleasant situations that will affect them — such as a broken ice cream machine or a shortage of strawberries. Often you can boost customer loyalty simply by keeping a customer informed about what’s going on with your business and being upfront about any problems.
Also remember, excellent customer service starts with good employee relations. View your team as internal customers and improve your employee relationship management right alongside your customer relationship management. Use the Crew app to improve internal communication among your team, and they’ll have the tools and support they need to better serve your customers.
2. Practice Active Listening and Avoid Interrupting
Make sure your team has been trained in the soft skills they need to provide customers effective service. Among the most important communication skills is active listening. Active listening will help you not only understand your customers better but also convey that you care about them.
Here are a few active listening techniques your team can incorporate into their customer communication:
- Summarizing. Repeat the customer’s concern back to them in your own words. This will help you verify that you understood them correctly and give the customer a chance to clarify, if necessary, before you decide how to handle their request or complaint.
- Clarifying. Rather than assuming you know what a customer meant, ask questions to clarify their meaning. Adopt a neutral tone to avoid sounding judgemental or defensive.
- Validating. Express empathy and acknowledge the customer’s problems. Affirm that they and their feelings are important.
When speaking with a customer, it’s also important to avoid interrupting. Cutting a customer off is not only rude but also indicates a lack of concern on your part. The customer will not feel heard, and you will miss out on a good opportunity to show you care.
3. Offer Several Ways Your Customers to Connect With You
In a world where it’s easier than ever to stay connected, customers have high expectations regarding response times and contact options. In the above mentioned survey, 64 percent of consumers expect companies to respond to them in real time. That number will only grow as younger generations become a larger part of the market.
By interacting with your customers on your website or social media, you can meet this expectation of immediate support — but you shouldn’t stop there. The more ways your customers can connect with you, the better.
Many people prefer the convenience of a Facebook message, while others would prefer to leave a comment and wait for a response. In some situations, a phone call is still the best way for customers to reach you with questions or concerns. You may even be able to preempt some customer questions and free up your phone line by posting your hours, menu, prices, and location — as well as any other vital information about your business — on Facebook and other social media sites.
The key is to offer as many communication channels as you can without sacrificing the quality of your customer service.
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4. Focus on What You Can Do Instead of What You Can’t
When it is time for you to talk, use positive rather than negative statements. Even if you can’t give the customer exactly what they want, you can soften the blow by maintaining a positive tone. Avoid using “can’t” and rephrase problems as solutions. For instance, “I can’t do Y unless you X” can be rephrased as “I can do Y if you do X.”
When explaining this concept to employees or updating your customer service training, it’s helpful to have a few concrete examples to get you started. Fortunately, you can find myriad examples of positive phrases online.
From having multiple options to contact to learning active listening skills, following the tips above will help your company meet and exceed customer service expectations and communicate with your customers effectively.