Tips for building stronger customer relationships online
Like to engage more effectively with your customers online? Sound Scouts founder Carolyn Mee shares some advice for improving customer relationships in cyberspace.
Understanding what makes your customers tick is key to success in any business, and in an uncertain economic environment, it’s even more important. Connecting with prospects and customers online can help you improve products and services, boost sales and identify new market opportunities. Carolyn Mee, the CEO of hearing check app Sound Scouts, shares her tips for building stronger customer relationships online.
When you’re running a bricks-and-mortar business, it’s not unusual for customers to call on you in person if they have a query, complaint or compliment to share. Bowling up to the business owner for a quick word should be just as straightforward in the online world. Setting up channels of communication – think email response forms, messaging apps and free call numbers – means customers and prospects can contact you quickly and easily.
“We have a 1300 number and a really accessible email option within the Sound Scouts app so people can reach out if they have concerns about their own or their children’s hearing, or they want to connect with us,” Mee says.
In today’s hyper-connected world, people are accustomed to receiving near-instant responses when dealing with businesses online. It’s all part of the ‘Amazon effect’ – a phrase coined to describe the way in which the digital behemoth’s domination of the e-commerce market has shaped customer expectations and buying patterns around the world. This is why it’s important to acknowledge and action online enquiries from customers as quickly as you can.
“You get the odd person who thinks you should get back to them within five minutes, which can be quite unrealistic for small businesses,” Mee notes. “In general though, I think people expect and appreciate a response within 24 hours or less.”
When you’re chatting in person, it’s usually easy to see whether you’ve answered someone’s questions or given them the information they were seeking. Online, it can be somewhat trickier to tell. That’s why the onus is on you to ensure written communication with customers is clear and concise, and that instructions can’t be misinterpreted. If writing is not one of your strengths, it can be a good idea to delegate the task to someone with that skill.
“I’m really particular about what I write and how we communicate – think twice and write once is my motto,” Mee explains. “Before I founded Sound Scouts in 2011, I worked in the communications industry so I think I’m skilled at delivering the right responses, concisely. A few people in my team also liaise with customers and I try to give feedback and advice to improve their writing skills so we present the business as professionally as possible.”
Staying engaged with customers online means communicating with them regularly, preferably via multiple channels. In 2020, there are plenty to choose from but it makes sense to focus on those which resonate best with your target audience.
“From early on, we started building a database of customers and we’re in touch with them regularly, through our (electronic) newsletters,” Mee says. “For us, that’s been a really great way to gain feedback and insights.”
Getting the frequency of communication right is important and Mee uses her own ‘thresholds’ as a gauge. “We’re all busy and there’s a lot of digital ‘noise’ out there,” she says. “I don’t have time in my life to read emails from a company once or twice a week but once a month is comfortable, unless there’s been an extraordinary event.”
Social media is also an effective means for connecting with customers. “We use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and we’re experimenting with TikTok, for sharing information and telling stories,” Mee says. “Content is king and this is a great way to highlight the benefits your product offers, in a real-life way that customers can relate to.”
Keeping the communication channels open and responding promptly and well to customers will stand your business in good stead but if you really want your service to shine, you’ll also put any negative feedback to good use.
“We know that when they have an issue with a product or service, many people don’t raise it with the business,” Mee says. “We use online feedback as a barometer of what other customers may also be experiencing and let it guide us as to what’s working well and what needs refinement.”
Being able to engage effectively with buyers online can turn the online sphere into a powerful sales channel for your business. By providing the same high standard of customer service online as you offer in real life, you may be able access new markets and keep existing customers coming back for more.
This article is a general overview and should be used as a guide only. We recommend that you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before acting.