Three reasons you should connect with your customers digitally

Amanda Hayes Business

Do you have a text, email or chat service to reach your clients? If not, you may be losing lots of potential business.

Since the invention of the telephone in 1876, businesses have used telecommunications to reach more customers, peddle their products and services, and nurture their business relationships. The widespread use of the cell phone in the ‘90s and early ‘00s made this form of communication even more efficient than ever before, allowing businesses and customers to connect anytime, anywhere. But as we move into the second decade of the new millennium, phones are being used much differently than they were before, with actually talking and making phone calls being the least impressive and even the least important feature of that massively powerful computer in your pocket.

Now, consumers don’t just pick up a phone and call a business before they hire them. They Google the type of business they’re looking for, scan the results to find someone local, visit their websites, check their online reviews, and even scope out their social media pages before picking up the phone. But they aren’t necessarily picking up the phone to make a call; they’re also emailing, texting or filling out contact forms to get in touch as well. Unfortunately, many businesses still don’t offer a way to contact them via text or email, and that can be a costly mistake.

Here are some reasons why you should be giving your customers the ability to text you:

1. Millennials don’t like talking on the phone.

In a recent poll, 75% of millennials said they would prefer communicating with businesses via texting, rather than talking on the phone. They also don’t like listening to voicemails, citing them as a waste of their time. The millennial generation is made up of people ages 28-38 (in 2019), which means they are well into adulthood and are making some serious purchasing decisions. In 2019, millennials are expected to outnumber baby boomers as the nation’s largest adult population, and not tailoring your business communication to include their preferred methods could be devastating to your bottom line. Whether you’re a retailer, landscaper or mortgage broker, you need to reach the millennial generation to keep your business thriving.

But it’s not just millennials who don’t use the phone. Offering the ability to send emails or text to your business, you are also enabling people with phone anxiety, those whose first language is not English, and the deaf or hard of hearing to contact your business.

How can you achieve comprehensive communication options? First, by offering text and email communications with your customers, and ensuring you respond in a (very) timely manner. This means offering appointment setting, customer service inquiries and even order management via text and/or email. If you never text, and only check your business email every few days or less, you are going to be turning away thousands of potential customers and paving the way for one of your more tech-savvy competitors to acquire a new client.

Next, have a contact form on your website that sends responses to your email address, and make one of your questions on the contact form about their preferred method of communication so you know the best way to reach them. Make sure to check your website frequently and test your contact form to ensure you aren’t missing anything. Do not believe that if a Millennial doesn’t hear from you after filling out a contact form that they will call. They will just move on to the next business that responds to their requests in the way they want to be contacted.

Finally, make sure your texts and emails sound like there is an actual human reading and responding to them. You don’t have to go overboard and crowd their inbox with emojis and animated gifs, but you should not be sending them responses with two words and no punctuation. Make sure the tone of your digital communications are friendly and informative, just as you would if you were talking on the phone.

2. Having a strong social media presence increases brand awareness

Businesses these days are required to have a solid social media presence if they want to connect with as many potential customers as possible. They should also have someone posting regularly about their business, and responding to those who reach out to them via social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are sites where it is imperative to have a strong social media presence, and your posts, responses and activity should all remain consistent with your brand identity. Photos and posts about projects you’re working on, new technology you’ve discovered, charity or community service you are doing, or simply connecting with people and businesses around your community are all great ways to organically increase your business’ visibility and bring in more clients. Studies show that companies that are active and viewed favorably on social media are much more likely to gain customers than those that aren’t. Look at it as if you have an ambassador from your company at all events around your local area, talking up your products and services and showing a friendly face to those in your community.

One tip: Avoid posting about personal, political and/or religious beliefs on your company’s social media channels. It’s far too easy to alienate potential customers if you make your page about politics or discuss your personal thoughts on the day’s news. Keep the tone positive and try to focus on the subjects above on your posts and responses.

Speaking of responses, you should try to respond to every comment and question posed on your social channels. This helps humanize your business and shows customers that you care about their concerns. If they offer kudos for a service, thank them. If they have a problem or complaint, show them that you care by asking how you can make it right, or telling them you appreciate their feedback. Don’t delete everything you deem negative without responding to your customers first, but avoid getting into arguments with unhappy customers where all can see. Simply asking them to email or call you to talk about their issues will suffice to show that you want to help solve their problem without a lot of drama in the comments section.

3. It saves time (for you and your customers)

Believe it or not, talking to your customers digitally saves a lot of time and is much more efficient than talking to them on the phone. While it may seem exponentially easier to pick up the phone and call to get questions answered quickly, that’s not always the case. Sometimes you’re busy and can’t answer the phone, which forces your customer to leave a voicemail and hope they get a call back at some point. Alternatively, if you strive to answer all of your phone calls and you’re in the middle of something, you are then interrupted, and have to shift your focus to the phone call with no way of knowing if it’s an important call or someone you need to speak to right away. Business texting allows you to filter your requests quickly to determine which need to be responded to right away and which can wait until later.

Texts and emails are also more efficient for customer communications, as it gives you all of the information you need about your customer before speaking to them, and it makes it much easier to recall that information when you need it. No more mixing up client names and losing phone numbers; you don’t have to rely on your own memory to track your clients and their questions.

Text and email also allow your customers to get in touch with you at more convenient times throughout the day. There are many times and places when phone calls are inappropriate. It is much simpler for someone to shoot off a text during their work day, or at the intermission of their kid’s dance recital, where it wouldn’t be ideal for them to be on the phone. If your customers have to wait until they can talk on the phone to get in touch with you, they may end up never getting around to calling or even choose one of your competitors.

As we transition into 2020, connecting with your customers digitally is going to be more important than ever, and if you don’t build your company’s communication strategy to encompass all forms of digital discussion, you will be missing out on lots of potential customers. Don’t get left behind; ditch your dependence on phone calls and embrace texting and emailing as a way to connect with your clients. You won’t regret it.