Small and mid-size enterprises sometimes operate on lean profit margins, at least in their early years. Such business cannot afford missteps when walking the tightrope of client or customer relations. Whatever your business, ineffective communication goes beyond a failing of etiquette; you may end a valued and profitable relationship by not picking up the phone or delaying a response. The following three scenarios highlight the pluses and pitfalls resulting from good and poor phone communications.
The Prospective Client’s First Call
Times have changed from the days when customer expectations for returning a phone call meant responding by the end of the day. Because consumers have become accustomed to quick results through internet searches, they expect fast communication turnaround times. They believe business associates to be always within reach of a phone to receive and return both calls and emails. This expectation comes into play when a potential customer first reaches out to test the waters before forming a long-term business association.
When your company receives an exploratory call, how much does the prospective customer already about your background and experience? If you are an unknown quantity and you do not return a call in a timely manner, you will be seen as unreliable and not worth the investment. If you have been contacted based upon a referral, a collection of online reviews, a social media post, or any other trigger, the message you send may be that you are too busy to give all clients appropriate attention if you can’t be easily reached. In any case, you have not yet established a professional relationship, so the initial impression you present can be telling.
The Shopper’s Point of Contact
If you are in the business of selling goods or one-off services, you can’t afford to lose a single sale. Since most companies offer online shopping, customers may make purchases relying only on their own research. Some shoppers, however, seek trusted recommendations. If you offer purchase-support contact information – and you should – you need to make certain that your advisors are available for extended hours. That means that when potential buyers request product information they get unbiased answers as well as followup calls if necessary.
Three potential benefits accrue from this total communication effort: First, you make the initial sale, which otherwise would go to another vendor. Second, you plant the seed for further business, since you leave your customer with the impression you will be accessible and helpful in the future – even if the consumer finds a slightly lower price elsewhere. Third, you will find other new costumers as a result of word-of-mouth experience recommendations.
While first impressions are critical for any successful business, ongoing relationships require the same level of communication. Perhaps you are in the process of coordinating project parameters, or you need an open line to manage product orders: You may miss a critical change request; you are too slow to provide an order-delay update; or you let too much time pass to correct a previous miscommunication. Failing to receive phone calls or responding too slowly to messages can lead not only to negative customer relations, but also costly errors.
One way to avoid falling into these customer-communication pitfalls is to look into a Unified Communications as a Service phone system to replace your traditional wired or cellular one. The cloud-based UCaaS features provide integrated services for onsite and remote workers. Ongoing accessibility in any location means no one is tied to one physical location. Additionally, when one of your department members needs input from another department before responding to a customer, the information can come quickly.
After all, efficient communication should be part of any customer-relations model. Every business should make it a goal to respond quickly and effectively when a client tries to reach out. Customers who get silence after a call-in will be just as frustrated as those who got busy signals in past times.