- Trust in U.S.-based companies had been declining for a while.
- Some trust was gained over the past two years, but not enough – and now is the time for action.
- There are some ways to improve communication with your customers.
Trust in U.S.-based companies is now at 64%, up from 50% in 2018, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. As companies struggle with customer satisfaction and loyalty, they need to make changes to restore faith in business, which takes both time and perseverance. What might seem like a petty negative review on social media, for example, could ruin your entire reputation. Therefore, it's crucial to approach every customer and situation with care.
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 it might be tempting 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. [Read related article: Best Online Reputation Management Services]
"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 business consultancy Lee Resources, if you resolve a complaint in the customer's favor, they will do business with you again 70% of the time. As such, it's worth a few minutes of your time to retain customers.
2. Reply in a timely manner.
Sometimes, answering comments and concerns isn't enough. Make your best effort 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 by setting 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." [Read related article: Best Call Centers and Answering Services for Business]
3. Implement a two-way communication channel.
Make sure there is an online platform where you and your customers can have a dialogue. For example, on Twitter, ensure consumers can tweet their concerns and receive a reply in the same thread. Facebook Messenger is another great, personalized way to discuss questions or concerns.
"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 that might help you reach consumers in the future, he 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."
4. Address issues online.
If you choose to 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 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."
How to communicate with customers on different platforms
Over the past decade, more channels for communicating with customers, such as various social media platforms, have emerged. Although the availability of these platforms may encourage more open communication with customers, it also presents a challenge: managing all of those communication channels. If your business does it right, however, using these methods can improve communication with your customers.
One key to successful communication is setting expectations for response time. For example, if you have a phone number, provide the hours of operation for that number, and be sure to have someone answer the phone during that time. If you use email, set up parameters for a response time; send an automated response letting your customers know when to expect a response. If you say you'll respond within 24 hours, be sure to do so. The initial response lets customers know you received the message and sets expectations, and 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 this type of platform may allow you to address their concerns.
Having too much pride and not admitting 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 through any problem.