Talk to Your Customers How They Want to Listen

We’ve all heard of the phrase “the customer is always right” haven’t we? I could argue about the merits of this phrase and I could probably argue for both sides, but I wanted to discuss a thought process along a similar vein but with a different focus. As a consultancy focused on websites, marketing and design, communication plays a crucial role in what we do and how we do it. That’s where this notion of “the customer is always right” comes in. You see, as a business, what we (speaking of businesses collectively) do doesn’t always strike a chord and thereby doesn’t always lead to clients going out of their way to hear what we have to say. Think email newsletters, Chrome notifications and the like – they’re not always read, not always acknowledged, and depending on your industry, interaction rates may even be less than 1%.

Does anyone read emails anymore?

How many emails do you get every day? I’m not here to say that emails are dead, in fact, that is my main means of communication. I’m also one of those people who subscribe to a lot of newsletters and read almost all of them. But it is something to consider. There was a time when people rarely sent or received an email, and in those times, your emails were much more likely to be read as well. However, today, email sending is cheap, so everyone is inundated by emails. I’m not saying that emails are of no use, but look at your email analytics and make sure that your customers are opening your emails – MailChimp has this fantastic resource that you can use to compare yourself with others, just remember that better numbers when you are small doesn’t mean that you can scale to a larger list and maintain the same open rates.

SMS is more likely to be opened but seems more invasive

There a movement towards SMS as a means of communication. It is already being used as a means of being updated on things like the status of your order, or where your shipment is, but there is also something to be said for the use of SMS for other types of communication. A hard thing to get around, however, is the fact that SMS seems quite personal and clients may feel like their personal space is being invaded if you were to text them too much.

Privacy concerns around Messenger

Facebook Messenger and other instant messaging platforms are extremely popular nowadays, but just as their popularity is rising, so is the concern around privacy. I know a number of businesses who rely on Facebook Messenger to do business, but not everyone is on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or any other number of instant messaging platforms. I would go as far as to say that both emails and SMS are more popular means of communication when measured by the number of individuals signed up. They may not be the most popular when looking at the sheer volume of communication, but the more important factor for most businesses should be having means of communication that more people can sign up to.

We should make it easier for customers

There are two ways to look at this – that’s why you see a completely opposite heading below. Let’s put it this way – customers don’t have to sign up to listen to you or hear from you, so you need to take away any level of difficulty in the signup process. It should be seamless, and ideally instant. By making it easier for customers to sign up, you’re adding more people who can hear about your latest news or promotions, a good thing for most businesses.

We should make it harder for customers

Just as much as making it easier for customers to sign up is in your interest, depending on the stage of your business, you may also find that the complete opposite is true. You may find that you have too many people signing up and this increases things like your email provider’s bill at the end of the month or your phone service provider’s bill at the end of the month. Some businesses may actually benefit by making it harder for customers to sign up as they could get a higher quality of customer if they have to jump through a few hoops to get to the end, and will happily go through the process.

Location and type of business matters

Location and type of business are very important considerations when talking about communication. Communication is a very personal thing that changes drastically from country to country, or even city to city, let along across different industries. As a Canberra web design and marketing consultancy, for example, our clients may be more business-minded and prefer to receive email newsletters, where the clients of a bespoke, Canberra based jeweller might prefer to get an SMS update. Saying this, however, giving the customer the option to select how they want to listen to what you have to say should always be an option.

Capabilities are getting there

Ideally, marketing and communications will move to a space where a business can send a single message out and the clients can choose how they would like to receive it and interact with it. Imagine a world where you can send out your monthly newsletter, and it goes out as a Facebook message, an email, and an SMS with little to no interaction on your part. Given the fact that even email segmentation is only just catching on, I imagine we are a little way away from this scenario that I described, but you should think about a little more – how can you talk to your customers in a way that they want to listen?

  • Germaine Muller
  • Director at Futuretheory
  • Germaine is the Co-Founder and Director of Futuretheory. He enjoys delving into and writing about digital, marketing and design.
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