- Trust in U.S.-based companies has been declining for a while.
- Some trust was gained in 2020, but it is on the decline again – and now is the time for action.
- There are effective ways to improve communication with your customers.
- This article is for businesses looking to establish or reestablish trust with their customers through better communication practices.
In 2021, the Edelman Trust Barometer showed trust in U.S.-based companies was at 49%, down from 54% in 2020. After a slight rise in 2020, trust in business is on the decline again, and it is imperative for companies to take action to reverse this trend. As businesses struggle with customer satisfaction and loyalty, they need to make changes to restore faith in business, which takes time and perseverance. What might seem like a petty, negative review on social media, for example, could ruin your reputation. Approach every customer and situation with care.
How to improve communication with your customers
We spoke with Peter Muhlmann, founder and CEO of Trustpilot, who offered four ways to improve communication with consumers. Implement these tactics to achieve a better relationship with your customers.
1. Respond to unhappy customers.
While you might be tempted to ignore rude comments or nasty reviews, doing so only harms your reputation. Don’t avoid the problem; approach it with genuine concern and an open mind.
“Consumers are people and want to be treated as such,” Muhlmann said. “Answer their questions and resolve their issues as if you were trying to help out your mom. Be personable, and take a genuine interest in their concerns.”
According to a recent study from Zendesk on customer experience trends, 74% of customers say they are willing to forgive a company’s mistake after receiving outstanding customer service to resolve the problem. That means it’s worth a few minutes of your time to retain customers. You can learn a lot about top-tier customer service from luxury brands, which have perfected the art of catering to an exacting clientele.
2. Reply in a timely manner.
Sometimes answering comments and concerns isn’t enough. Do your best to respond within 24 hours, proving to the customer that their concerns are important to you. The best way to show your customers that you care is to set up a system that focuses solely on customer service.
“If you’re taking a proactive approach, you’re already halfway there,” Muhlmann said. “The key to staying on top of customer reviews is to actively seek them out and have a strategy and process in place ahead of time. Like many crucial business operations, preparation and planning go a long way.”
Outsourcing customer service to a top call center or a virtual answering service is one way to ensure that customer concerns are addressed as quickly as possible.
3. Implement a two-way communication channel.
Use social media platforms to facilitate a dialogue between you and your customers. For example, on Twitter, ensure consumers can tweet their concerns to you and receive a reply in the same thread. Facebook Messenger offers a personalized way to discuss questions or concerns. A Facebook Live Q&A is another way to effectively engage your customers in a dialogue that makes them feel heard.
“Social media and third-party online review platforms provide the perfect space for open and consistent two-way communication between companies and their customers,” Muhlmann said.
Additionally, this communication method creates valuable data sets to help you reach consumers in the future. As Muhlmann said, “Keyword tagging and natural language processing tools can help you spot trends and patterns in consumer behavior, all of which can help you improve and grow your business.”
Tip: Merely having an online presence is not enough. To retain followers and customer engagement on social media platforms, you must use those platforms strategically. Follow the 5:3:2 rule for posting on social media to get the most out of your online presence.
4. Address issues online.
If you encourage open communication on online platforms, approach public concerns and reviews the same way you would private emails and phone calls. One bad comment can blow up, spreading the word that your business is unprofessional.
“You want to be sure that your brand is responding from a place of empathy as well as showing the brand’s ability to admit fault by issuing an apology when appropriate,” Muhlmann said. “Nobody is perfect, after all, and that includes businesses – even some of the most successful ones across the globe. If you made a mistake, that’s OK. Take responsibility, and propose a solution.”
Tip: Consider using a reputation management service to help you maintain your online image. Read our guide to the best online reputation management services to select one that best meets your needs.
How to communicate with customers on different platforms
Over the past decade, new channels for communicating with customers, such as various social media platforms, have emerged. While these platforms encourage more open communication with customers, they also present the challenge of managing multiple channels of communication. If used correctly, however, these platforms can improve communication with your customers.
One key to successful communication is setting expectations for response times. For example, if you have a phone number, provide the hours of operation for that number, and make sure someone can answer the phone during those hours. If you use email, send an automated response letting your customers know when to expect a response. If you say you’ll respond within 24 hours, do so. The initial response lets customers know you received the message and sets expectations. You must deliver on those expectations or risk losing a customer.
In addition, allow customers to provide feedback, and be responsive to it. Even if they complain about something you cannot (or are unwilling to) fix, let your customers know you care. Third-party online review platforms provide a great way for your customers to give you feedback, and many allow you to address their concerns.
Too much pride and an inability to admit your faults are surefire ways to turn off consumers. However, acknowledging and solving issues on a public platform shows your audience that you are sincere and willing to work with your customers.
Did you know?: Managing numerous social media channels can be a challenge. Social media monitoring tools can help you keep up with your customers and respond to them faster.
Customer communication can make or break your business
With trust in business declining, improving customer communication is crucial to your business’s success. Rather than brushing customer complaints aside or sweeping your mistakes under the rug, confront them head-on with a constructive attitude.
Respond to unhappy customers, and make sure they feel seen and heard. Offer tangible solutions wherever possible, so that customers feel assured that you are taking action to address their concerns.
When you respond to customers, do so in a timely manner. If you are unable to respond quickly to customers within your organization, choose a customer service call center or virtual answering service to do it for you. Ensure that you have a two-way communication channel where you can engage in dialogue with your customers.
Social media channels present a great opportunity to do this, and they also provide valuable data about customers that may assist you in communicating with them. If you are present on online platforms, you need to address customer complaints and concerns online, be willing to admit your faults publicly, and offer solutions.
Putting yourself in the customer’s position will allow you to respond from a place of empathy. If you implement these practices, your business can improve customer communication, trust and retention.
Jocelyn Pollock contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.