It’s a deep-rooted fact that customers are the most important component of any business. You can have a great business venture, offering a cutting-edge value proposition but what counts at the end of the day is getting customers, retaining them and growing the base. This means that your interaction with customers is something not to be taken lightly. Before the advent of the digital age poor business and customer interaction was somewhat something a business could get away with. Nowadays, not any more, digitalization has made it easy for information sharing to occur at break-neck speed. This means you ought to understand the dynamics of communicating with customers afresh

Websites & Social Media

These are now mostly effortless, cost-effective and far-reaching platforms to use for communication purposes. I find it very disturbing if a business doesn’t have a website and isn’t active on social media platforms. By the end of this year, it’s postulated that almost 3 billion people worldwide will be on social media. Internet users in Zimbabwe are approximately 6.8 million with 48% (close to a million people) of the local social media population being on Facebook. YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter are the other commonly used social media sites. Facebook and WhatsApp combined constitute over 35% of all internet access in the country. You can’t effectively communicate with customers if you aren’t on social media platforms and without having a website.

Phone Calls Are Indispensable

Despite all that I’ve stated above never think that phone calls aren’t necessary anymore. Remember that most people still appreciate phone calls when communicating with businesses. Most businesses the world over that are highly commended for exceptional customer service have top-notch call centres. Not that many people prefer to articulate their issues or concerns through their fingers – in fact, it takes a certain ability to fluidly translate your thoughts into written words. So as a business ensure that the option for voice calls is adequately catered for in your aim to communicate with customers.

Feedback Is Golden

We have so far established that calls are indispensable and that websites and social media accounts are must-haves. The most important objective of all this is to elicit feedback from customers. Never assume you know everything when it comes to your customers. Foster a free environment in which customers are at liberty to highlight concerns or to even compliment good work. Never make the mistake most businesses make, which is to be more given to monologues with little or no dialogue. Feedback is central to noting areas needing attention with regards to your brand. Customers want what’s best for them and if that’s provided they become loyal customers – so what they say is paramount. Websites and social media platforms have built-in features that cultivate two-way communication so leverage on that to get feedback.

Study The Big Data

There are things customers say or do that provides obvious insights i.e. likes, comments, shares and so on. However, there are lots of non-verbal (as it were) details that you’ll only know once you study the big data – this you do by looking at analytics. For websites, you can use Google Analytics whilst social media platforms have their own respective analytics. Remember we are talking about communication and most of what people intend to really communicate is non-verbal. Consider websites for instance, upon looking at the analytics you can get to know things like bounce rate, most visited pages, traffic sources, conversion paths, just to mention a few. These are things your customers will most likely never tell you verbally unless you check the analytics. These attributes help you understand your customers so that you communicate better.

Trust Is Golden

Communication is about building a common understanding through cultivating trust. This means on these digital platforms, despite the impersonal interactions, relate with customers as people not as objects. Identify with their lives, empathize with them, share in their experiences and make them feel like family. Remember the 80/20 rule which says that 80% of your time interacting with customers on social media must be about them and not your products (20% for that). The more you make it about the customers the more they will trust you and the bonus is that they get to open up more, be truthful and be more inclined to buy and tell others.

Immediacy & Proactivity

It’s now so easy and fast for a customer to send your business a message, be it a query or need for help. In the same vein, customers expect you to respond equally as fast as possible. Over and above that customers also now expect you to be proactive and not reactive. This means that if you want to effectively communicate with customers through digital platforms then you must have dedicated staff to attend to your social media platforms and call centres. Incorporate chat bots if you will as this can promote immediacy of responses though you will still have to be diligent enough to follow through proactively.

Bad News Travels Fast

With digital platforms now driving communication between customers and businesses, unattended complaints due to poor service are costly. Reputation is everything in business and so it’s very fatal to treat complaints casually.  Be wary lest you feed and nourish your competitors due to an exodus of dissatisfied customers. These are public platforms that have easy share-ability – at least 90% of disgruntled customers share their experience with others.

Reviews are now key perception drivers for how people view your businesses. Most people will make purchase decisions based on reviews (which are user-generated). Due to the need for social proofs, people trust reviews as a more accurate way of evaluating a business. So now that you know that digitalization has given rise to certain customer behaviours – you can communicate more effectively with customers.