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Customer communication

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Are you overwhelmed by all the customer communication mediums available to your company in today’s market? If so, you are not alone.

Although social media has made customer communication less costly per interaction and facilitated quicker customer resolution times, it has also introduced many new mediums to juggle with your customer support team and loftier response expectations from customers.

This phenomenon has made startups and expansion stage companies feel even more stretched in the customer support departments than ever before and made optimizing a customer support strategy more difficult.

Here are some important points to keep in mind when designing or re-working the customer communication strategy for your company:

  • Being un-responsive via a channel of communication is worse than not having a channel available to your customers. Stretching your customer support team’s human resources too thin will result in lower quality customer interactions. This will aggravate customers more than not having the ability to interact with your team via multiple online mediums. If you want to have a presence on additional customer communication channels, but do not have the staff or funds to properly man the lines of communication, then you can use the additional channels as landing pages and redirect the customers to a similar active communication channel.
  • Different customer types prefer different customer communication mediums. Finding the mediums that are most comfortable for your customers and yet still efficient and effective in resolving typical product or service issues will increase the impact of customer interactions on customer experiences. For example, if you are selling to 18- to 35-year-olds, you will need multiple forms of online communication and an active Twitter presence. However, if your target customer group is in the 55 and older crowd, you will not need the same level of online presence and you probably can get away without a social media presence. The online mediums that resonate best with older individuals are instant messaging, video chat and email, as this demographic values direct personal interaction more than any other factor; whereas the younger age groups prefer speed of response over personal interaction.
  • Make sure that all your customers are covered and comfortable using at least one of your means of customer communication. This is the minimum bar to providing a positive customer experience for any company, regardless of whether they are a small startup or a late expansion stage company.
  • Changing customer perceptions and behavior is more important than quick time to resolution times or contact to resolution times. As long as these efficiency metrics stay within a reasonable range, the key in customer interactions should be to neutralize detractors or convert them into attractors on the NPS metric scale. (See my previous blog entry for more advice on Net Promoter Score Mistakes to avoid in the Customer Management Process).
  • Make sure that the message being passed to customers is consistent and at a high quality level across all mediums of communication. Do not add new mediums of communication to your customer support arsenal until you can ensure that the new medium will improve the overall customer experience either through providing a new preferred medium, a shortened response time or a better means to resolve customer issues like video or remote customer support login functionality.

Figuring out which customer communication mediums make the most sense for your company is a difficult process, but it will pay huge dividends in customer satisfaction if you invest the time to identify the communication needs and requirements of your customers. Getting the buy-in of the executive team to commit sufficient resources to the customer support group to satisfy these needs is critical as customer support is oft times under-valued. It is the job of the senior members of the support team to make sure that the executive team understands the importance of high quality customer support.

If you are interested in reading more about customer service tips and best practices, I highly recommend reading my blog posts on 9 ideas for driving customer promotion through customer service and 5 reasons why Twitter should be part of your customer service strategy.

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Brandon Hickie works with OpenView’s portfolio companies to develop business strategies and optimize market and product positioning by means of market research, market intelligence, and customer and marketing analytics.

  • davinabrewer

    It is all about the customer: who they prefer to deal with, via what channels, then when/where/how all on their terms. I’d agree that a lack of response is terrible, that silence is certainly deafening; but having no way to contact someone for assistance is much worse. Who hasn’t been frustrated when we go to a website and there are no 800 #s listed, no emails, no chats for support, just nothing. I agree w/ your recommendations for multiple, cross-channel mediums.. so having not one at all (or hiding them under FAQs and sub-pages) is much worse. FWIW.