Your brand is the sum of every experience a customer has with your company - from the first time they visit your website, through using your products, to speaking with customer support.
If you’re a glass-half-empty type, that sounds pretty daunting: Each tiny interaction with a customer could potentially upset their relationship with your business.
We prefer to see the glass as half full: Every touchpoint is a golden opportunity to build trust and increase loyalty.
Either way, it’s worth thinking carefully about how you communicate with customers. Which channels should you choose? And how much should you automate the process?
The answer is almost always “It depends!”
Most businesses need a mix of communication channels and formats, ranging from chatbots, to voice messaging, to the good old-fashioned telephone.
Here we’ll consider what you should look for in a communication channel. We'll then break down some common use cases, to help you choose the best tools for your business.
Considerations for choosing a channel
Before thinking about channels, it’s useful to know that communications fall into two main buckets: synchronous and asynchronous communication.
When a customer interacts with your business, but neither of you needs to be active in the conversation at the same time, that’s known as asynchronous messaging. Text messaging, instant messaging apps, and social media conversations are good examples.
Synchronous conversations happen in real time, so both parties must be present and ready to respond. Common examples are live chat and telephone calls.
Intuitively, you might think that synchronous communication is more convenient. Who doesn’t want an immediate answer to their questions?
But there are plenty of instances when asynchronous communication is more appropriate. Want to arrange dinner with a friend, but don’t have time to pick up the phone? You’ll most likely send them a text message. While they’re thinking of their response, you can go about the rest of your day. And they can respond once they’ve checked their schedule.
In the context of business communications, asynchronicity means that rather than waiting around for a reply, customers can get on with their to-do list. Your team can then respond when they already have an answer at hand.
This bypasses the frustration of a phone call or live chat, where customers expect immediate help but normally have to wait on the line while your team finds a solution.
Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at some key channels and where they fit into your customer communication mix.
These aren’t just passive followers. Customers are increasingly inclined to post about their experiences and ask for help. By engaging in social listening, you can turn negative experiences around and even add value by sharing useful content.
You don’t get to choose how customers communicate with you via social media, but you can choose how to respond. Consider using your social presence to:
- Respond to and amplify positive mentions
- Quickly provide a solution to simple problems
- Share useful content that helps users to help themselves
- Provide contact options to deal with more complex issues
When customers need information, they’re likely to look to your owned channels - your website and apps - for support. It shouldn’t take them more than a couple of clicks to find what they need.
The first option is to provide self service tools so that users can find information by themselves. Blogs, knowledge centres, and FAQs are great ways to tackle recurring problems for your customers.
Automated chatbots take this one step further. They’re ideal for providing basic information and dealing with common questions.
But for more complex and emotional conversations, a personal touch is needed. You’ll need to supplement self-service channels with more human options such as telephone and voice messaging.
In short, your website is ideal for:
- Self-serving useful information
- Quickly dealing with common questions
- Signposting further contact options
For pressing or complex issues that need to be solved right now, the telephone is still a safe bet.
The top reasons customers use the phone are because they’re looking to get a quick answer, or they want to talk to a real person. They’re also more likely to pick up the phone regarding a high value purchase - such as a car or a holiday.
Phone calls are also ideal when it comes to de-escalating a heated situation. Customer service representatives can use their skills to empathise with the angry caller and bring them around to a solution.
This is why it’s a good idea to reserve your call-centre for urgent requests that require a hands-on approach.
You’ll want to save these resources for:
- Urgent issues that can’t wait
- Complex problems that need a hands-on approach
- Engaging with unhappy customers
The most obvious benefit of a phone call is the human touch - the ability to use empathy and knowledge to engage with your audience.
But as we’ve seen, a ‘synchronous’ conversation isn’t always convenient for you or your customers. There are plenty of instances where you might want to offer a personal touch, without the need for a live interaction.
For instance, it’s important for real-estate agents to build trust and empathy with clients: Buying or selling a property can be an emotional rollercoaster.
Vocal cues help agents to pick up on clients’ emotions and guide them towards a conclusion. But on many occasions, clients will need to reflect carefully before making a decision. Likewise, agents may need to collect additional information before responding to queries.
That’s where asynchronous voice communication comes in. With voice messaging, clients can easily express their feedback, concerns, or queries in a way that feels natural. Agents can respond when they have sufficient information. And clients can reply on their own terms, without being put on the spot.
More generally, voice messaging is an ideal solution for problems that are too complex for a chatbot, but don’t require a live phone call.
In many of these scenarios, a customer would normally be forced to fill in a form detailing their thoughts - no easy feat on a small phone screen. Wouldn’t it be much easier to hit record and speak into the microphone?
Here are just a few ways that voice messaging can benefit your customers:
- Tackling problems that need a human touch, but don’t require a phone call
- Conversations that require careful consideration of the options
- Collecting raw, unfiltered feedback
- Engaging VIP customers with personal support
Diversifying customer communications
As we’ve seen, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to customer communication. Your business is likely to need a variety of engagement tools across a range of channels.
Automated chat is a great way to tackle common queries, which frees up call centres to deal with more pressing problems. Voice messaging adds another layer to your communication offering, letting customers express themselves in their own terms, on their own timetable.
It will probably take some trial and error to come up with the right mix. But as long as you consider the reasons your customers get in touch, the devices they use, and how quickly they need a response, you’ll be on the right track.
To find out more about how our voice recording and messaging platform could supplement your existing customer support channels, get in touch with Telbee today!