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.


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