How well do you
manage your customer communications pre- and post-purchase? Here, communications expert Phoebe Netto offers tactics to improve the customer experience.
Good customer service and relations are critical elements to any business, but for Phoebe Netto, managing director at marketing and public relations specialist Good Business Consulting, a comprehensive communication strategy demands that companies think beyond “promoting the business” and “making the sale”.
Instead, Netto, who works mainly with small-to-medium businesses, suggests companies focus on a five-step communications strategy that invests time and energy interacting with customers.
1. Offer value with no strings attached
The most effective way to get someone’s attention is to offer no-strings-attached advice, says Netto. “Let your prospects get to know you through promotions,” she explains. “This isn’t trying to sell to them; it’s engaging them to get to know you and like your business.”
Value-added gifts or services might include an e-book that can be downloaded for free; a short discussion or Q&A session; helpful information on your website, such as a FAQs page; and a regularly updated blog. Netto stresses, however, never give away for free your core product or service. Rather, offer a sample of your services.
2. Follow up to make the sale
A follow-up call or email seems commonsense but, with customers often requiring five to 10 follow-ups before committing to a sale, Netto says a lot of opportunities are lost in this second step. (A McGraw-Hill study shows 10 per cent of salespeople make more than three contacts, yet 80 per cent of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact.)
If you have the first step right – where trust is established – then a follow-up is seen as helpful. “It gives potential customers the chance to ask any questions,” says Netto, “and it helps them process the fact that they’re going to have to part with some money.”
3. Generate post-sale loyalty and referrals
In his book The Referral Engine, marketing expert John Jantsch reports that 63.4 per cent of the small-to-medium business owners he surveyed believed that more than half their business came via positive referrals. Yet, Netto says few companies harness its power. “Businesses need to invest as much time in this step as pursuing new leads,” she asserts.
One approach is to make customers proud to be associated with your business. “Mention them in your newsletter, send out invitations or email them relevant case studies and coverage that your business receives,” says Netto, explaining that this reminds customers of your expertise, while establishing a dialogue beyond extracting money.
4. Ask and listen to feedback
Asking and listening to feedback demonstrates to customers that their opinions and advice actually count, says Netto. “It also provides a greater understanding of your target market, so all communications remain specific.”
Essentially free advice, customer feedback offers valuable insights into improving image, branding and messaging, customer service, delivery and business offering. And, if it’s negative feedback, Netto suggests personally thanking and rewarding customers for their honesty. “Acknowledge your mistakes and communicate what steps you’ll put in place to ensure they don’t happen again,” she advises. “If a problem is solved to a customer’s satisfaction, you potentially have them for life.”
5. Provide thoughtful and unexpected interaction
Don’t limit communication to responding to customer enquiries and sending out invoices. Instead, make a connection for the benefit of building a relationship.
“The emotional factors that lead to surprise or feeling valued are key to the total customer experience,” says Netto, explaining the regularity of contact should be commensurate with the customer investment. “Ask ‘how can I personalise my relationship with my top customers?’ A hand-written ‘thank you’ note, for example, is rarely thrown out. It’s not part of a contract, nor is it a big expense, but it has a big impact.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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