Posts Tagged ‘Communication’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Keep Your Team on the Same Page With an In-House Communication Plan

It’s pretty ironic. These days, we’ve got dozens of ways to communicate with our employees, but so often, we’re still not getting through. Key information doesn’t get shared, so we miss deadlines and opportunities. Sometimes, the plethora of communication solutions seems to be the problem itself—ever had the same person IM, text and frantically call you?

How can you choose the best tools for in-office communication to ensure balls don’t get dropped? Try these tips.

  1. Assess your needs. What do you and your team need to communicate about? Do you have installers in the field who need to communicate with the home office? Do you have remote employees or independent contractors who need to be kept in the loop? Are most of your communications short and/or urgent (suited to instant messaging or texting) or do they tend to be long and complex (so conference calling or emailing would work best)?
  2. Investigate possible solutions. What tools do you already have at your disposal (smartphones, IM, VoIP solutions) and what could you add? What solutions will work best with your existing phone and computer systems? Don’t forget to consider mobile tools—if your employees use smartphones or tablet computers on the road, your solutions need to mesh with those devices, too.
  3. Match the message to the channel. Decide what types of communications are suited to what channels, and get all your employees on the same page. For instance, you might tell everyone to use instant messaging only for urgent communication (so employees know to respond right away). Making a certain channel the “default mode” for a certain communication helps prevent the situation where someone gets an IM, email and voice mail about the same issue.  
  4. CommunicationSet regular communications times and channels. Constant interruptions hurt productivity, so whenever possible, streamline communications by regularly disseminating key information at the same time and in the same way. For instance, have a 10-minute “all-hands” conference call every Monday morning where you quickly run down the week’s priorities, have your sales team email you a status update at the end of each week so you can review it over the weekend, or have your assistant text quick appointment reminders to you first thing each morning. 

Why Your Communication Stinks

StinksB.C. (Before Computers) business owners sent letters, called on the phone or went to visit a customer in person. There were really only these three ways to “talk”. As a result, business communication was much simpler. Now customers can contact a business through chat, social media, email, voice mail, and fax. With a smart phone in every customer’s hand, there are so many ways to communicate at any time of day or night. What makes it even more difficult is that customers expect an answer immediately! The timeliness of a small business’ customer conversation has a big impact on their reputation and therefore sales.  

Most small businesses stink at communicating with customers. They don’t have a unified plan to monitor all the communication channels and don’t get back to customers in a timely fashion by the same team of people.

Here are specific guidelines to improve communication:

Email should be replied to within the same day. There should be an immediate auto responder on the single email address that customers most use that sets the expectation when someone will get back to the person. A customer service rep needs to then reply within the specified time.

Only offer chat from the website if it can be staffed for an extended period of time. Review website traffic and find out when a majority of users visit. Be careful when outsourcing this function since that company may not have enough information to really help the customer. Do not offer mobile phone chat unless this is the targeted customers’ favorite form of communication. (Typically under 25 years old)

Monitor what customers are saying about the company on the Internet. Use a free service like Google Alerts or other paid services to track when your company is mentioned. Then get involved in these conversations when they are positive and negative.

When the customer calls, have a live person nearby. Depending on the volume of calls, it may not be practical to have every caller be answered live. However, automated answer trees should be limited and only have one level.

Finally, whoever “catches” the first communication message from the customer should track it through to completion. The biggest complaint that most people have when they call a company is they get passed off to someone else and have to explain their issue all over again.

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a business speaker, author and consultant. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com

 


Why Your Customer Communications Stinks (and What to Do About It)

Posted on by Barry Moltz

Many small business owners believe that if they don't hear complaints from their customers, their company is doing well. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most customers will never really say what they think directly to the company. Instead, they just sulk away and tell all their social media friends. This can be disaster in a social media connected world.

It’s not that some customers don't try very hard to tell the company what they think. Many small businesses are either difficult to reach or don’t respond to customers in a timely fashion. In fact, their communication process with their customers truly stinks! As a result, companies lose not only customers, but potential raving fans.

Here are 3 areas that need to be served to turn customer communication into a competitive advantage:

When? There needs to a mechanism in place at every phase of the sales and service cycle for a customer to give feedback to the company. This includes pre-  sale, during the sale, and post sale. This is critical because problems and questions happen at every stage for different customers.

CommunicationHow? Depending on your customer, be prepared to communicate via all the popular channels including phone, text, email, blog, and social media. Different customers will comfortable communicating in different ways. For example, many of them will never email the company, but will tweet instead. If a company’s customers are much older, telephone or mail may be the best form of communication.

How soon? Different channels of communication require different response rates. For example:

  • Phone: within 24 hours
  • Text: within an hour
  • Email: same business day
  • Comments on blog posts: within 4 hours
  • Social media: within 4 hours
  • Mail: within 24 hours

If a company does not have the financial resources to respond in this period of time, do not offer it as a communication channel. Always state up front how long it will take to respond and stick with it.

Every communication with a customer needs to answer these questions:

1.    Why is the customer calling? What is their real problem? Many times digging deeper for the answer will get better results.

2.    How can the company make them more satisfied? It's not just about helping them, but truly making this one customer satisfied.

How often do you really communicate with your customers? If it is not frequently, then you are missing something.

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


Quiz: Is Twitter Right for Your Business?

twitter-iconTwitter, a social media platform that allows users to broadcast, or “tweet,” 140-character messages to the world, has more than 200 million users worldwide. So does that mean that your business should have a Twitter account, too?

Not necessarily. Some small business owners feel guilty if they don’t use Twitter, but also aren’t sure if the platform would really help their bottom line. “I call it social media guilt,” says Jason McDonald, director of JM Internet Group, a social media and SEO consulting company in Fremont, Calif. “Social media might be technically free to utilize, but it takes a lot of work and if your customers aren’t listening, it might not be worth it. Sometimes you have to throw stuff over the boat.”

Consider the following questions before opening a Twitter account for your business.

Question #1: Are your customers on Twitter?

McDonald’s daughter is obsessed with the apparel brand Juicy Couture. She follows the brand on Twitter and shares photos of celebrities donning the clothing. “Juicy is a company with a good demographic for Twitter,” he says. “Customers are 18 to 28 years old and really into their mobile phones. They want to know about the latest products before they hit the market and get the inside scoop.”

But what if you are a plumber or a CPA? “I recommend opting for Google Local or Yelp for those professions,” he says.

Question #2: What can you offer only on Twitter?

Taking the plumber and CPA example, there are very few value-adds that those professions can offer on Twitter. On the other hand, a food truck or pizza restaurant can provide great value to clients on the social media site.

“In the case of the pizza place, you could tweet out a special deal for the lunchtime crowd or alert them to a change in the menu,” says McDonald. “If you own a food truck, you could tell your clients when and where you will be the following day so they have insider information.”

Question #3: Do you have a plan for your Twitter page?

Survey your customer base before launching your Twitter page. What business-specific insights would they find valuable? Once you collect that information, create a well-thought-out plan for your Twitter page. Detail how often you will Tweet, what you will send out, how many discounts you will offer, etc.

Bonus Question: Do you ever go to conferences?

One of the best ways for small business owners to get their feet wet on the social media site is to join a conference-specific Twitter conversation using hashtags.

“Twitter is huge a tradeshows,” says McDonald. “The next time you go to your industry’s version of ‘nerdworld,’ boot up your Twitter page and participate in the conversation. It will help you get an idea of how to use the site.” 




 
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