Effectively communicating with customers

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Having an effective, efficient and accurate system for communication with clients should be routine for any business.

Over the years we have had clients require a co-ordinated communication strategy to help manage a particular issue – for example, the resignation of a key executive, or the launch of a major new initiative.

Often this includes a timetable to keep their own customers or clients informed of developments. However they then realise they don’t have an established way of communicating to clients quickly and efficiently.

Some tips on setting up such a system include:

  • Communication paths. If you have a small customer base then perhaps an individual contact program is possible. With a larger customer base, a regular newsletter or e-bulletin or events may work. Make sure all customer and client data bases are kept up to date and are well-managed. Out of date records are a problem we have often encountered and precious time can be lost in communicating, or important clients overlooked.
  • Seek customer feedback about your relationships – and use it. However this should be done sensibly and sparingly. An automated “How did we do?” email after every contact can be plain annoying.
  • Be information, not only sales, based. There is a tendency for all customer communications to be aimed at making a sale, but it’s not usually the best way to build relationships. Focus on keeping customers informed, give useful information and show your own expertise in a way that adds value so you are seen as a good organisation to do business with.
  • Be honest and open. Too often businesses cover up when things go wrong, which can be a major mistake especially where the facts can get out from a third party. Customers are more likely to forgive an organisation that is upfront about problems, but they are less like to forgive an organisation caught out in a lie or that doesn’t explain when things go awry.
  • It’s about them not you. Customers are interested in how your products or services will help them. But you should also communicate your knowledge. Communications should not be about “us”, “we” or “our” but about “you”, and useful information phrased accordingly. Communicate your success in an appropriate way as this is another way to build your reputation as a good company to do business with.

And finally, keep in mind how your audience would like to be communicated with, not what suits your organisation. Ask clients what format they prefer to receive information in. For instance, if your client base prefers a hard copy, don’t just use email because it’s cheaper.