Improving customer communication – where to focus your efforts

Improving customer communication - where to focus your efforts

I often get asked which areas we see as having the biggest bang for buck when it comes to improving customer communication post-sale. It’s actually quite a hard one to answer because each industry is facing its own unique challenges but there are a few areas that come up time and time again.

Below I’ve listed the five areas I see most often, and the ones that cause the most damage to the customer experience.

1. Customer knowledge bases

Customer self-service is only going to increase in prominence as businesses realise the huge benefit of letting customers help themselves. With that in mind, your customer knowledge base will almost certainly form a cornerstone of any initiative.

There’s plenty of great services like ZenDesk out there that can implement the technology, but if the content of your knowledge bases is poor, or difficult to understand, you could well be doing more harm than good.

I wrote a more in-depth article on knowledge bases but here are some really simple tips for making communication and structures customer-centric:

  1. Make structures easy to understand
  2. Follow a user-centric approach to building answers
  3. Make content clear, human and avoid internal jargon

2. Customer complaints communication

Complaints communication to customers continues to be a bone of contention for a lot of businesses. It honestly doesn’t matter how robust your complaint management system is – if the way you communicate with customers doesn’t cut the mustard you’ll be facing increases in escalation and dissatisfaction.

From our experience the issues range from everything from tone of voice to customer care represenatives struggling with basic communication and writing skills.

Complaints will always be an emotionally charged touchpoint – so communication skills for customer service teams is vital. And not just verbal skills, but effective writing for email, levitate and social.

3. Customer Live Chat

Or, more importantly, “how well you’re communicating within live chat“. We’ve got a fantastic example from Vodafone hidden in the archives that we may drag out one day.

It highlights everything that’s wrong with implementing a new technology without giving your teams the skills they need to deliver through it. Live chat is immediate – so it needs a totally different approach to email. It involves active listening through a digital channel – that’s tough, even for an expert.

If businesses every hope to master live chat as an effective channel – one that reduces calls and improves customer satisfaction – then there needs to be a greater emphasis on training and advanced communication skills for teams.

4. Customer on-boarding and welcome material

customer welcome process from AirBnB

The customer welcome process has come under closer scrutiny for one simple reason – mobile apps. All you have to do is compare the sign-up and welcome process of AirBnB to a bank account application (my recent attempt to HSBC took 8 weeks).

One is simple, customer-focused, friendly, engaging, thoughtful at every single step. The other involves reams upon reams of detail, duplication, complexity.

Sure – they’re different models with different regulatory needs, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. Your customers don’t care. As they become familiar with how simple and engaging a sign-up process can be, you’re 18 forms of hard to read, complex language are going to look increasingly archaic.

Welcome processes are all about brand reinforcement and ease for the customer. Most of the smaller utility forms are nailing it on this front but there’s still a huge range of sectors that simply don’t get what a good welcome process needs to look like for the customer.

5. Administrative customer communication

We’re probably a little biased on this one, but administrative customer communication is one of the biggest untapped opportunities for businesses to improve customer relationships and make huge cost savings.

In fact, from our experience, it’s where we’ve seen the highest percentage increase in responses (after some transformation, up to 201%) and the biggest cost savings. Sadly, businesses still aren’t treating this content as the hugely valuable asset it really is.

What’s perhaps more worrying is the belief than moving these comms to email/digital will solve the problem. That simply isn’t the case. The same principles apply for clarity, customer-centricity and turning internal jargon into language that’s clear.

So, there you have it. If I were advising someone on the five key areas to focus on today, these would be on my list.

  1. Create a customer knowledge base that’s full of excellent, customer-centric content
  2. Stop trying to solve an emotional problem with more process and focus on better communication in your complaint handling
  3. Enable teams using LiveChat with communication skills which mean they can really engage with customers
  4. Take a good, hard look at your welcome process and start optimising for the best customer experience possible
  5. Conduct a proper customer communication audit on all your administrative touchpoint and turn them into the powerful assets they can be

Have I missed anything?

We’d love to hear your thoughts so if you’ve got an area I’ve missed, please comment below.

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James Freeman-Gray

I'm co-founder here at Rubuss. I work across service design, customer experience, complaints and cultural change. I'm also an executive coach supporting leaders to take a human-centred approach to empowering their teams.