Q: These days, it seems like a challenge to reach customers by phone or email—especially when you need a quick response. Sometimes voicemails take days for them to respond to, or an email just gets buried in their inbox. How can I use social media or texting to communicate with my customers without stepping over the line?
Communication is an essential part of running a successful IT business. While most businesses rely on traditional forms of communication like emails and phone calls to correspond, having another way to contact customers can be beneficial, whether it’s texting a client to let them know you’ll be a few minutes late, or giving them another way to contact you in case of an emergency. However, once you start blurring the lines and communicating over text or social media, there are a few unspoken rules you should adhere to.
To help define some guidelines for communicating with customers, we talked to Andrew Brearton. Andrew is a regional account director at Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda, and he excels at growing and fostering customer relationships. Here are his tips on how to communicate with your customers without overstepping any boundaries.
Make it easier to connect
Communication is a key component of any partnership, and if there isn’t enough communication, the partnership will fail. To build and maintain successful partnerships with your current customers, communication should be open and available. Having additional outlets like Skype calls to walk through difficult tasks, Facebook messages to get a quick, easy response, or even text messages when the phone line is busy will help put your customers at ease and keep them satisfied.
One of our MSP partners told us that he recently added a few texting lines for their office. After some experimentation, they saw that customers reacted positively to having an alternative means of communication, and even more importantly it helps techs stay focused. Instead of having phones ringing multiple times or a customer sitting on hold when they’re trying to reach you, a simple text can reassure them that they’ll be helped as soon as the tech is done helping another customer. This quick, simple response can really put customers at ease.
If you decide to communicate with your customers over text, try to be clear and concise. If a longer explanation is needed, hop on a phone call. It will be easier to have a quick conversation to ensure that there isn’t any confusion.
Keep communication professional
The most important thing to do when using social media or text messages with your customers is to remain professional. As a best practice, whenever I communicate with a customer outside of emails or phone calls, I use a structured response—like an email template—to help me make sure that communication remains professional. I start off with a greeting such as Hello, Good Morning, or Hi so-and-so, it’s great to hear from you, and then I continue my communication from there. At the end, I always formally sign off or end the note. At the end of the day, they’re your customer, and you should treat them as such.
If I’m leaving the platform for the day, I politely tell them so they aren’t sitting around waiting for a response. It’s also good to give them another way to get in touch if they have further questions, such as text, email, or another person they can call.
These additional communication channels are more easy-going or friendly, but they aren’t a good fit for some types of conversations. Sometimes you need to have a more serious conversation with a customer. Although it might be quicker to reach them on Facebook chat, you ultimately want to find a way to hop on a call to talk about the nitty-gritty details. A lot can get lost in translation over social media, so often it’s best to have tougher conversations over a phone call so there aren’t any misunderstandings.
Pick the right platform for the customer
It’s important to find the right platform to talk to your customers. Not every customer prefers to talk over social media or text. Find out what works best for your target segment. If you have a lot of small mom-and-pop shops, they might prefer to talk casually over Facebook or text. However, if you provide services to the healthcare industry, for example, your contact might be more easily accessible through email. Find the best means of communication for them is the key to providing them with a better customer experience.
If Facebook is a good fit for your customers, build a business profile page and encourage customer interactions—comments, reviews, and likes your page. This is a good place to share your blog posts, and the chat functionality can also be a great tool for your business.
If you decide to connect with customers on Facebook on your personal account, keep it clean and professional. One benefit to connecting this way is that it gives clients a closer look at who you are as a person, and the whole goal of any customer relationship is to build a rapport and gain their trust. By connecting with them the right way on Facebook, they’re more likely to see you as an advisor or friend they can come to with questions.
LinkedIn is a phenomenal platform for connecting with customers. It’s professional, and it can be a great resource once you build up your connections and networks. You can also gain quick insight by posting a question and getting feedback from customers and prospects. For example, I shared one of our local events on LinkedIn because we were looking for a few more registrants. One of my partners then shared my post and promoted it to others in the industry—inviting new contacts that we didn’t know before. People like to help each other, and if your customers like you, they’re often willing to advocate on your behalf.
Communication is important, and although you may be hesitant to integrate these other forms of communication into your business strategy, following Andrew’s advice can help you implement it effectively. After all, wouldn’t you be willing to try something that can drive business, encourage natural growth, and help you save the day in the case of an emergency?
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.