As people are spending more and more of their time online, businesses need to think ahead and be where their customers and prospects are as well. A company that struggles to communicate and adapt to its customers’ needs risks losing them.
But this does not need to be the case! By using a variety of internet-enabled communication tools and services, any company can connect with clients and potential customers in the online space. This will also help with your brand awareness, so it’s definitely the way to go!
There are lots of ways to stay connected with your customers online, so keep reading for some actionable tips you can apply right away for your business!
Customers want their questions to be answered instantly, and any uncertainty about their purchase can lead to losing a sale. To provide high-quality support, and to enable consistent communication with customers across all communication channels, the first thing you should do is develop an action plan for your business.
Here’s what you can do:
- Think about how you’ll respond to customers regarding any common requests or changes in policy, and what alternative solutions you can offer (i.e. product deliveries, take payments online, etc.)
- Make sure all people handling customer communications know the refund, return, and cancellation procedure.
- Gather the most common questions you received in the past from customers together with the answers you provided. Create a database with all of them (for all your team to have access to). This will ensure consistent messaging, regardless of who is handling customer communications.
Once you have a plan of action, you can work on deciding and setting up your online communication channels.
Evaluate Your Online Presence Needs
There are hundreds of different communication tools and channels at your disposal. The challenge is finding the ones that fit your needs and requirements–or more importantly, your customers’ needs and requirements.
Before you set up an online communication channel, you need to take some time to look into your customers’ behavior and preferred channels of communication.
How exactly do people want to reach your business?
- Do they prefer calling you?
- Maybe texting or WhatsApp?
- Or would it make sense to have a more interactive communication (maybe even 1-1 video calls)?
Thinking this through will help you choose your communication channels wisely.
Let’s say you are in the business of selling physical goods. In this case, customers may want a way to contact you directly. This means you need a strong communication service that can help your customers quickly have their questions answered and easily order. You could try an online chat plugin.
If your clients are professionals, you may find LinkedIn and Twitter a good choice. If you run a restaurant or store, Facebook and Instagram might be better. It all depends on the age and profession of your customers, and the specifics of your industry.
Budget ahead of time
There are many tools out there both paid and free. If you have a lower budget, there are free options to get you started. If you’re looking for communication tools with more options and features, you may consider investing some of your budget here.
With that in mind, let’s look at the tools you can use to communicate with your customers, clients and internally within your organization.
Tools for Communicating Online with Your Customers
Before you can work on setting up private (one on one) communication channels for your customers, you’ll first have to focus on expanding your public communication channels and making it easy for clients to find your contact info.
Check Your Website Communication
If you don’t have a website, now would be a good time to evaluate if it’s time to create one. If you already have a website or online shop, here are some things you can consider to improve customer communication:
Your website should have a contact page that lists your main communication channels. You can simply add your current contact information such as:
- Phone number (preferably Whatsapp enabled)
- Email Address
- Social media profile link.
2. Add Live Chat to Your Website
41% of customers prefer to use live chat to communicate with businesses. Live chat also has the highest satisfaction levels of any customer service channel. Add it to your website and people interested in your products/services will be able to contact you instantly.
If you need a basic live chat service and have a WordPress website, WP Live Chat by 3CX can be the way to go. However, if you’d like to get a live chat service that’s more feature-rich, here are some other options:
Once the live chat is active on your website, customers will see a prominent text-box where they can type their queries and chat with you back and forth effortlessly.
3. Add Booking Functionality to Your Website
If you provide a service that requires reserving time-slots in advance, you should consider adding a booking functionality to your website. It will enable clients to book an appointment directly, without having to call your office.
There are a lot of options to consider, so for an in-depth look check out our full guide. It will enable clients to book an appointment directly, without having to call your office.
Increase Your Online Communications with Social Media
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with your customers. Lots of people turn to social media accounts to get support, ask questions, and keep up to date with what’s happening with their favorite businesses. If you’re not already on social media, here’s where you can get started:
1. Start by Creating Social Media Profiles
There are tons of platforms to choose from. Look into where your target audience is most active and also where they’d be interested in finding you. Another thing to do is look at where your competitors are actively communicating with their audience. Some of the most popular social media platforms include:
The options listed above aren’t the only kind of profiles you should create. For example, if you own a restaurant, you should consider building a Yelp! or TripAdvisor profile as well.
Once your social media profiles are set up, you should add your contact information there as well:
- Phone number
- Email Address
- Other social media profiles
- Link to your website
The next step will be to plan your content strategy. This is where you figure out what you’ll be publishing on your social media profiles. These posts can simply be text-based announcements, links to your products or news, visuals or videos. Visual posts can easily be created using a tool like Canva.
2. Opt-in to Social Media Messaging
Social Messaging has been attracting more and more companies, as it allows prospects and clients to contact them effortlessly. In case you’re not already connected with your audience there, set it up and encourage users to contact you whenever they have any questions.
As a next step, you’ll need to figure out who will be answering all Social Media messages and comments.
This can be done either by your team or, if your customers generally reach out to ask similar things and you’d prefer a more automated version (for Facebook for example), you can use a chatbot.
When thinking about how you’ll respond to messages, try to stick to your brand’s tone of voice, keeping consistency with your overall communication. Still, when people message a company it helps knowing there’s a person behind the brand, so keep it friendly with a touch of humour where possible.
If you go for the chatbot option for Facebook Messenger, let’s say, you’ll have to put in a bit of work to get it set up, by adding a database of FAQs. Mobile Monkey has a coding-free chatbot builder and they also have several templates you can use. Don’t forget to think of your chatbot as a person and try to give it some personality.
Create A Forum/Online Community
Want to step it up a notch? Create an engaged online community. People love the sense of exclusiveness, so they might be even more attracted to join your niche group.
What can you get out of it?
- Improve customer relations,
- Increase engagement and loyalty,
- Discover the brand ambassadors who’d be willing to spread the word about your brand,
- Provide extra value and position your brand as an industry expert.
There are plenty of options available:
- Facebook Groups: On Facebook, you can easily create a group from your business profile and invite your customers to join you! Facebook groups offer you the opportunity for more one-on-one communication, and to provide extra support to your customers. There are endless options when it comes to how to use your group, so be creative with your strategy!
- Slack: If you want a more feature-rich group service (and have the budget for it), Slack is a great choice. It integrates with Google Docs, CRMs, and other work-place software. To use Slack, you simply have to create a channel and invite users by sending them a link. You and everyone you invite will have access to the last 10,000 messages, enabling rich communication.
- WhatsApp: WhatsApp Business was built with the small business owner in mind, so it’s a great choice. You can showcase your products and services and connect with your customers. The app gives you access to specific tools for automation and sorting, so you can respond faster.
- Reddit: Reddit’s main focus is social news aggregation. Though the communities on Reddit often use the site as an online forum, its main function is that users submit content that can receive votes (upvotes for the good stories, downvotes for the uninteresting/fake, etc.). The most popular threads rise to the top. It’s free, so it’s worth taking into account, but you’ll need to become a valuable member and to have a good story!
Create A Google My Business Listing
If you own a local business or offer your services/products locally, creating a Google My Business listing is the way to go. Lots of people from your area might already be searching for the products/services you’re offering as well.
Your GMB will show up anytime a person does a Google search for your business (or even when they’re looking for nearby similar businesses to yours).
You should add detailed information about how people can contact your business–such as your website name, your phone number, your social media profiles, and more. You can even enable a messaging service for people to directly message you from your Google My Business listing.
How to Make Announcements to Customers and Prospects
Whenever you are making significant changes that impact your customers, you should consider making a public announcement to notify existing and potential customers of these changes.
Some examples of these kinds of changes include:
- Making your services available online
- Any big promotions or discounts
- Changes to your delivery times/policy
- Updates to your product offering
- Removing products/services temporarily and/or closing shop
Your customers want to know what’s going on, and there are a few ways to effectively communicate these kinds of changes.
- Announce on your website: If you run a website, you can prominently make the announcement there, either in the news section or even on the homepage.
- Don’t forget to update all relevant pages from your website: Check your knowledge base, delivery policy, and FAQ page, depending on what changes you’re making.
Bonus tip: When customers ask about these topics, you can quickly redirect them to the relevant pages.
- Send an email: If you deal with clients on a personal basis or have an email subscribers’ list, you can easily update them by sending a quick newsletter/notification. People appreciate a brand that offers all the necessary information.
- Bang the drum on social media: Evaluate if your changes should also be communicated via social media. This might be even more effective at spreading the information to your customers.
Enabling Remote Communication With Employees
When crafting your communication plan, don’t forget about your team! If your team is working remotely, take a moment to make sure they also have access to the right communication tools, as this will enable you to provide your visitors with the perfect customer journey. Here are some tools to consider:
1. Slack, Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams for varied communication
2. G-Suite or Dropbox Paper for document-based collaboration
3. Zoom or Skype for audio and video calls/conferencing
4. Trello or Basecamp for project management
Practice Makes Perfect
Communicating online can initially feel like a complicated task–but it is much easier than you think. Start by taking a simple step: creating a social media profile, building your Google My Business listing or creating your first public post.
Things will get easier, as you’ll soon learn what tools work best for your audience and you’ll be able to continue improving your online communication system.