In our digital era, more and more business-to-customer communication happens exclusively via screens and keyboards. Customers can shop online from anywhere in the world, browsing at all hours of the day or night.
These advances have made our lives a lot easier, and they’ve paved the way for a lot of exciting new products.
But electronic communication can also make customer relationships feel less personal. You aren’t as likely to look your customers in the eye as they’re browsing your wares, for example, or as they hand you cash at the checkout. Your business probably won’t be sponsoring their kid’s little league team. And you may never hear their voice on the phone.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t foster more meaningful customer relationships in the digital sphere. It just takes a little extra effort to make that personal connection.
At The Receptionist, we take special care to form personal relationships with every one of our own customers. We’ve found that the following best practices help us in our efforts to continually strengthen those bonds.
Communicate Like a “Real Person”
As we mentioned in our article The Best Customer Support is All About Real Relationships, making a personal connection is much easier when you use a casual, friendly tone in your communications.
When you talk to customers the same way you talk to friends or colleagues, they’ll be more likely to pay attention and respond.
Think about it: When you read an email or listen to a podcast where the person sounds a little pretentious, a little too buttoned up, or a little like they’re addressing a seminar instead of chatting with a peer, it’s much easier to tune them out.
Most of us can adopt a casual tone easily when we’re communicating face-to-face. It gets a little more difficult when we’re writing — especially when we’re composing a message that will be seen by a large group. It’s easy to picture the equivalent of a full conference room as your audience and slip into “formal announcement” mode.
One way to combat this tendency (and a classic copywriting trick) is to read your message out loud after you’ve written it. Does the message come across naturally in your normal tone? Does it sound like something you would say to a friend? Don’t hit “publish” until it is.
Leverage the Power of Story
Human brains are wired for stories. Stories naturally pique our interest, and we instinctively relate our own experiences in narrative form when we’re talking to others.
Consider how you discuss the day’s events with a friend or partner. When asked about your day, you don’t deliver a bulleted list of facts (we hope). You tell a story. Even if it’s a short story, there’s always a hero, stakes, a conflict, and some kind of resolution.
Stories make your messages more familiar, more relatable, and more interesting. And the more often your customers engage with the stories your communications tell, the stronger your connection with them will be.
Make Messages More Personal
Of course, you can do your best to make your company “feel” like a person on its own, with its own unique personality and characteristics — that’s just good branding. But even the most compelling content in the most familiar language can still feel impersonal if it’s not coming from a real person.
Customers should be able to put an actual face, or at least an actual name, to any message you send them.
Michael Ashford, Director of Marketing at the Receptionist, discussed the importance of this personal approach in our recent podcast episode “Writing Like Your Customers Talk.”
One big mistake many companies make is using a “no-reply” email address for your messages. Your emails should be from a real person, preferably someone who can devote some time and attention to customers if any replies do come in. Ideally, this contact should even encourage email recipients to respond with their feedback.
Similarly, the members of your customer support team should use their real names when interacting with customers. At The Receptionist, our support team has established such good rapport with clients that sometimes customers will send a message using the live chat feature just to say hello when they see their favorite rep online.
We also occasionally hold webinars at The Receptionist, and then ensure webinar hosts follow up with participants by individually thanking them for their participation and asking for their feedback.
Keep Messages Simple
As Michael mentioned in our podcast, it’s a good idea to shoot for a third-grade reading level in all of your communications.
That’s not to say that you think your audience only has the reading ability of third-graders. Keeping your messaging simple and clear is a way to respect your audience’s time by ensuring they can get through the material as quickly and easily as possible.
Part of making your messages more relatable also means ruthlessly removing industry jargon. This might also require some reassessment of what terms your audience might not be as familiar with. For example, we at The Receptionist use the term “visitor management software” a lot, but people who are completely new to the concept may not be familiar with that term yet. To get around this potential issue in messaging to prospective clients, we might use a term like “visitor check-in app” that they’d be more likely to understand.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the most compelling communications, whether written or spoken, are the ones that use as few words as possible to get the point across. This goes back to respecting the audience’s time and making things easy for them.
Shift Into Proactive Communication Mode
As we wrote in our post Defining Radical Support®, you shouldn’t wait until customers have complaints to get in touch.Don’t wait until customers have complaints to get in touch with them. Click To Tweet
Think of your own personal relationships — the meaningful connections you have with people in your life. You can often get a sense that a friend is having a hard time or under stress without waiting for them to tell you directly. And you probably try to reach out when significant milestones come around. Similarly, if you haven’t heard from them in a while, you might just call and see how they’re doing with no other agenda.
Take a similar approach with your customers.
As a team, you can identify the following in advance:
- Crucial points in the customers’ journey when they would appreciate proactive communication (such as when they first sign up or add a new feature)
- Times of the month or year when they might need extra help or tips (perhaps certain seasons are always hectic for customers in your industry)
- Triggers that indicate the customer is struggling with your product (such as not logging in to the software for a certain number of days) or staying on a certain page within the program for too long
These best practices will all help deepen your customer relationships, and that improvement will be reflected in things like better email open rates, higher online ratings, and better retention.
To learn more, don’t forget to listen to our podcast, The Check-In.
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