How To Communicate With Customers On Their Terms

According to HubSpot, customer service is a factor for 90% of customers deciding whether to patronize a business. Yet many businesses still fall short when it comes to satisfying their customers. Everyone has had the experience of being frustrated or disappointed with customer service, whether in person, online, or on the phone. What can you do, as a business owner, to build trust and engage with customers more effectively?

Understanding the Customer’s Perspective

In order to upgrade customer service, you first need to look at things from the customer’s perspective. This is a simple but tremendously important shift in mindset. Here are some crucial points to keep in mind. Customers are busy and expect businesses to accommodate their schedules. If they need help late in the evening or on the weekend, they want an answer promptly. If you aren’t available, they will look elsewhere. The right communications platform is everything.

There are many technological solutions that allow customers to reach you at any time. For example, a virtual phone number, which can be local, toll-free, or custom, isn’t tied to a physical location and allows customers to reach you by phone, computer, or tablet anytime. 

Related: What Is a Virtual Phone Number and What Can You Do With It?

People are not always going to go out of their way to find information. Many website visitors, for example, will contact customer service with a question even if they could find the answer by searching your FAQ page or another section. If a customer has an urgent problem, he or she is looking for the fastest and simplest solution. They are focused on their own convenience, not yours. Businesses need to accommodate this in order to show the customer the kind of attention that will generate loyal, return customers—and new customers.

Shifting the Business’ Perspective

If you are a business owner or manager, it’s natural to look at the situation from your own perspective. Customers may contact you at all hours or days of the week, including weekends and holidays. They may call you with questions that are easily answered by looking at your website. While customer needs and demands may not always seem reasonable, a major challenge of owning a business is learning to shift your perspective. The right tools can help you do this efficiently and effectively, without infringing on non-work hours.

The Importance of Communications Technology

At the heart of customer service lies your communications technology. This is true for a brick-and-mortar business such as a store, restaurant, or medical practice as much as an e-commerce website or service-based online business. 

In all cases, customers can only reach you directly at certain times. If they call you after business hours (or even if you’re otherwise occupied during regular business hours), your technology will determine how easily the customer or prospect can connect with you.

Going back to the customer’s point of view, think of what happens when someone phones your business. If you have a typical voicemail setup, they will have to leave a message if they can’t reach you directly. Many customers will not bother to do this. If they can’t reach someone, you may lose that potential customer forever. 

There’s a misconception that in the digital era that the phone is no longer the primary means of communication. Studies prove this is not the case. Consider the following statistics reported by Finance Online

  • 41% of customers in the US and UK prefer connecting with customer support via phone calls.
  • More than 77% of customers 51 and older prefer phone or in-person contact with customer service.
  • According to 72% of employees and 58% of leaders, the phone is still the favored channel for most customers.

How does a small business, with limited resources, meet customer expectations and handle the challenges of effective communication? It all comes down to having the right technology. 

Improving Technology by Choosing the Right Business Phone System 

Because your phone is such a fundamental tool for communicating with customers and prospects, you want to make sure you find a system that serves your needs. The following are some tips to keep in mind when selecting or upgrading your business phone system

Find a Plan That Fits Your Budget 

You need to find a phone solution that fits your budget. Smaller businesses can’t afford high-priced products and services. Ideally, look for a service that offers multiple pricing plans based on your needs and usage. That way you won’t be paying for more coverage than you need.

Your phone remains one of the most crucial communication tools for your business. As a business owner, it’s essential to separate your personal and professional communications. For example, it’s unprofessional to have customers calling your private cell number. You need a dedicated business phone. However, a basic, traditional landline phone has serious limitations. Let’s look at some key phone system capabilities that would help you run your business more efficiently and boost the quality of customer service you provide.

  • Customization. An advanced phone system lets you choose how calls are handled. You can create custom rules for calls based on your needs, the time of day, or the caller ID. 
  • incoming Call Management. A critical issue with incoming calls is what happens to them outside of business hours or when no one is immediately available to answer. A phone system can direct calls to a single destination (such as your personal number or a team member’s) or to multiple destinations depending on the time or caller.
  • Quick Connections. Whether you’re running a solo business or you have a team of 100, the customer needs to reach the right person or department as quickly as possible. HubSpot Annual State of Service reports that 90% of customers expect a swift response of under 10 minutes when they contact customer service. Long waits on hold will cause many customers to hang up.
  • Text and Video Calling. Depending on your business, you may have customers who prefer texting or video calls to voice calls. Younger customers are more likely to prefer texting or video. Business Wire quotes a large study that found that phone calls are still the preferred method of communication for most people. However, 12% prefer texting and 6% prefer video calls. A video call may be appropriate for selling a high-end product or service or negotiating a major contract.
  • Management of Spam and Unwanted Calls. Anyone with a phone, including businesses, has to contend with spam and other unwanted calls. It’s useful to be able to easily block callers. It’s also good to be able to block outgoing calls to prevent, for example, employees from making international calls. 
  • Notifications. You should be able to receive notifications of incoming calls. An efficient communications system can conveniently notify you of missed calls via email or text message.

 Maximize Efficiency

Once again, we have to look at everything from the customer’s point of view. People don’t want to spend time on hold or being transferred from one person or department to another. The best phone service is one that optimizes efficiency and makes it easy to route calls to the right place. This includes capabilities such as the following.

  • Click-to-call. This is a useful feature that lets customers contact you from your website. Many website visitors prefer to talk to someone on the phone rather than send an email or fill out a contact form. With this feature, customers can enter their own phone numbers and generate an automatic response from your business. This can be more advantageous than having customers call you as it gives you their phone number and lets you manage the conversation. 
  • Toll-free numbers. Having a toll-free number is useful, especially for businesses that have customers calling from many regions. A toll-free number makes it more appealing for customers to call you. It also helps to give your business a professional image as they are widely associated with large and reputable companies and organizations.
  • Call analytics. Tracking metrics such as the number of calls, time of day and day of the week, call duration, and closings/conversions can help you identify your top performers, and improve performance. Based on your results, you can update call scripts, menus, and other features.  

How to Make the Most of Your Business Phone System 

Having the right technology is essential for effective customer communication. However, you also need to do your part and make the best use of the tools you have. Here are three tips for doing that.

#1: Be Clear and Transparent About Your Availability

Provide customers and website visitors with clear guidelines on the best ways and times to reach you. Be sure to post your business hours. It’s also good to give people multiple ways to reach you, such as email and social media. Today’s customers expect to be able to reach a business using a variety of channels. Offering multiple options will also cut down on off-hour calls.

#2: Have Consistent Policies in Place

Everyone who answers the phone for your business should follow the same basic protocols and be aware of the way to handle calls. For example, if you have several departments such as IT, consumer sales, and commercial sales, employees should know what questions or issues should be routed to which department. Anyone who answers the phone should also be clear about company policies on important issues such as refunds and warranties.

#3: Minimize Hold Time and Make it as Painless as Possible

No one likes being put on hold. An AT&T study found that 60% of callers placed on hold hang up before someone comes back on the line. Furthermore, 30% of callers who hang up never call back. This indicates that your hold policies can have a serious impact on your business, causing you to lose potential customers. 

Related: How a Business IP Phone Service Can Improve Communications With Your Clients

That said, sometimes it’s necessary to place customers on hold. Hold music can help keep callers on the line. People may joke about how tedious it is listening to Muzak, but almost anything is better than silence. If callers can’t hear anything, they can’t even be sure if they are still connected. 

Music provides a diversion and indicates that the call is still live. It’s best to use a fairly neutral form of music such as classical. Another option is to play messages about your business. However, it’s best to avoid overly promotional or salesy promotions that sound like commercials. Keep the tone informational. 

Music or not, don’t let customers stay on hold for too long. Many customers will not stay on the line for more than a minute or so—and they may hang up with a negative perception of your business. Here are some ways to make sure customers aren’t waiting too long.

  • Offer customers the option of a callback. It’s always advantageous when customers or prospects give you their number, which removes the risk of them not calling you back and losing them forever.
  • Set up menus or use a virtual assistant. A menu gives callers options to route them to the right party or department. For example, “press 1 for business hours, 2 for sales,” etc. This helps the caller quickly reach the right destination.
  • Offer customers alternative ways to reach you. A recorded message can tell callers they can reach you via email, social media sites, or other channels you may use. This also points to the benefits of an omnichannel approach to customer contact. 

As your business grows, you need a communication system that is able to scale along with your needs and give your business a professional appearance. Ultimately, you must choose a communications system that can handle all your calls in a way that meets your customers’ needs and doesn’t cause them undue frustration or confusion. 

Finding the right business phone service can make a big difference in how you communicate with clients. If you’re looking for a flexible and affordable business phone solution that helps you connect with customers on their terms, can help. Contact us to request a demo.


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