When communication and customer service are in sync, your business will prosper.
But poor communication leads to dissatisfied customers. As a customer, it’s probably happened to you at least once.
You’re dealing with a business and are waiting for a response. You haven’t heard from them when you expected, so you’ve sent an email or left a phone message, but they haven’t replied.
Perhaps you’re waiting for a quote; asking for an update on a delivery date; or checking in on progress.
Several thoughts cross your mind:
Maybe they’re not in. Do they only work part-time? Did they say they’d be on annual leave? Are they on sick leave? Did my email go to their junk mail? Did I call the wrong number? Should I call or email again?
Whatever the reason for the lack of response, as frustration builds the message you hear is the same: as a customer, your needs are not important.
You are not important.
Read any negative online review and the underlying feeling is the same – the prospect or customer did not feel valued by the person or business they were dealing with.
Clear communication and great customer service are critical to business success. Lack of communication with prospects and clients is a dangerous game, as research has found that:
Many businesses think that of the customers they lose, most move on because of price.
But the main reason companies lose clients is from not valuing them and ‘showing them the love.’
Considering common belief is that it’s up to 7 times more expensive and time-consuming to get a new client as it is to retain an existing one, poor communication is a costly and self-destructive business practice.
Good intentions aren’t good enough…
Just like no news is not good news when it comes to communication and customer service, good intentions don’t always lead to good results.
Some business owners, because they want to please their clients, over-promise on delivery dates and over-commit their schedule.
Not wanting to let clients down and have an uncomfortable discussion, they avoid calling clients to inform them of delays.
When the frustrated client calls to complain, they tell them all the reasons the delay has occurred. But the client wants results, not excuses. The business discounts the service as an apology.
The end result is a stressed service provider; a frustrated and disappointed client; an unprofitable transaction; and a damaged client relationship.
Effective communication with prospects and clients can make the people you deal with feel valued, and ensure a long term and profitable relationship.
Frustrations happen when expectations aren’t met, so it’s key to align expectations early with clear communication. Here’s how…
Improve your communication with prospects
Tell your prospect by what time/day you’ll provide a quote and stick to it (or better still, beat it). If you can’t deliver what you promise, let them know as soon as possible with a new ETA.
Once you’ve provided a quote, give them a quick call to ensure they received it. Let them know you’ll be back in touch, and by when, to see if they have any questions. Or ask them when they are likely to make a decision, and when they would like you to call. And ensure you contact them when you say you will.
(We’ve known businesses to seek our help with marketing, even though they have months of quotes they haven’t followed up! We tell them they don’t need to work on marketing, they need to work on their sales process.)
If you invest the time in quoting, invest the time in follow-up.
What if they choose another provider?
Ensuring that your prospect’s needs are met (even if not by you) reveals a genuine care for your prospect.
Even if you don’t secure their business, keep in touch. If appropriate, provide them with ongoing information or tips that will assist them (perhaps via an e-newsletter, product samples, or offers). They might need your product or service in future, so keep top of mind and add value any way you can.
Improve your communication with clients
Align expectations around communication at the start of your working relationship.
If you can’t always respond to emails and phone calls immediately, inform your clients of your turnaround time for responses.
Consider an email auto-response that acknowledges emails and lets the sender know by when you’ll reply. Ensure your phone message states your turnaround time, or if you are on leave and when you’ll be back.
Or if a client leaves a phone message you can’t respond to immediately, text back to let them know it’s received and when you will reply.
Ask your client how they prefer to be contacted. Depending on their schedule and personality, they may prefer phone calls, emails, or texts. And let them know the best way to contact you.
Ask your clients to let you know by when they’d like a response. Sometimes their request is not urgent, and can wait.
If you are delegating a response or task to someone else, let your client know who that is; provide their contact details; and let them know when they’ll be in touch.
Communication and customer service during long projects
If you are managing a lengthy project for your client, provide regular status updates even if nothing has changed since your last communication.
A building company, for example, could email site photos each Friday so clients can see building progress. If nothing has changed let them know the reason, ie. inclement weather, or supply delays. If you are waiting on them for information, this is the time for a gentle reminder.
Communication and customer service if you’re the middle-man
If you are the go-between of two parties, keep your client regularly updated even if you don’t have any news. For example, a weekly update stating “we have had no news from Council this week on your application, however we are within expected timeframes for a response” will put your client at ease and let them know they haven’t been forgotten.
Communicating bad news
If you have disappointing news, communicating early is critical. It’s better to disappoint your client with bad news, than to disappoint them with bad news when they are already upset with you for a lack of response or missed deadline.
If you’d like your business to excel at customer service, contact us to discuss how our coaching and team training will help.
We look forward to hearing from you.