When it comes to building relationships with our customers, we may be lost on where to start. In eCommerce, we can’t simply talk to our customers at the cash register as they browse and shop for our products. Instead, we have a variety of communication channels to choose from, and knowing which one is the “right one” can be hard, especially if we don’t fully know our customers’ preferences. However, by determining what kind of relationship we want to have with our customers, we can better identify channels that we can get started with based on their capabilities and general user base.
Where should I connect with my customers?
Online customers can be found in many places. While they can be found on your own site at times, they are often scattered about the internet on different communication channels. They could be browsing their emails or reacting on social media. They could be at home on their laptop or scrolling on their phone. Defining your users’ preferences can be difficult to do without an already active community, analytics, and overall experience in your field.
One way to gain traction despite the uncertainty surrounding our customers is by taking into consideration the channels we as a business prefer. What channels do we like to use? What kind of connections do we want to build? Different channels often come with their own limitations and benefits, and our business needs can help us figure out where to get started as we grow our business and learn more about our customer base.
What communication channels are out there?
Email is a well-known and trusted way of reaching your customers outside of your website. Despite the growing popularity of other channels, such as social media, email remains widely used across the world. However, one thing to keep in mind about email is that it tends to be seen as a formal, professional method of communication. Customers often expect business updates, notifications, promotions, and personalized offers when it comes to email. While email can be a back-and-forth dialogue in the case of support, email is often used to keep people informed about your business in semi-detailed, asynchronous letters. Read our blog on email marketing to learn more about the effectiveness of email as a line of communication with your customers.
Since almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays, accessing many of these communications channels can easily be done through mobile devices. However, some businesses also use customer phone numbers to connect with users via SMS text messages. Much like email, these text messages may contain updates and reminders regarding orders or scheduled appointments, such as consultations. Time sensitive has also been sent via text message to customers who opt-in for promotions. What makes mobile communication stand out is that, unlike email, these messages are short and concise. Text messages are often not used for detailed conversations with customers.
LiveChat is a communication option that is often accessed through your website by customers if available. Via LiveChat, customers can type or text with a business representative directly. LiveChat is often used for business-related questions and problem solving rather than promotions or updates. Customers go to LiveChat to get support right away. Sometimes, AI is incorporated into these channels to provide automated support 24/7.
Phone/ Call Center
While not all businesses have call centers, phones calls are still a common way that’s customers may use to connect with businesses. On the business side, we may use phones calls to remind customers about an upcoming appointment, or to reach out to a customer who has shown interest in their products. On the customer side, phone calls are often utilized to make appointments and request support. Like LiveChat, phone calls may be used to troubleshoot issues with a customer. While phones calls can be employee intensive, phone calls are crucial for more complex customer support requests.
From Facebook to LinkedIn, there are a variety of social media outlets to consider when connecting with users. However, social media is a flexible line of communication. From updating customers on business news to asking them for their opinions, social media is an informal way to engage, entertain, and educate customers. It is often a channel to share the “personality” of your company with your user base. For a deeper dive into how social media platforms can vary, read our blog on using social media to bring more customers to your site.
Forums are community driven channels that are centered around questions and answer dialogues. Like other channels, forums are often used to support and educate customers. However, forums also offer customers an area to talk with other customers, giving them a place to discuss their experiences, complaints, and successes with your products. Overall, forums are a great space to both help your customers and receive insight into their pain points, giving you information to work with when improving your business.
What channel should I choose?
Since every channel has its own unique set of benefits and limitations, it’s common to end up working with multiple channels of communications. Afterall, your own needs as a company may not filled by just one of these channels. However, note that you do not need to have all of them. Trying to do all these channels at once, or even dive too deep into one channel immediately, could result in little gain depending on what your customers end up utilizing. Choose a handful of channels to work with based on what kind of relationship you want to have with your customers. Once you have data and feedback on what your customers want in their relationship with your business, expand to suit those needs.
Want to Learn More?
To effectively communicate with your customer base, it is important to continuously collect and analyze what your customers want so you can optimize your strategy accordingly. Read our blog or listen in to our podcast for more tips and guides on making your business the best it can be! If you want more hands-on guidance for improving your website, join the waitlist for Carrie Saunders’ upcoming course, “The Converting Website.” In this course, she will dive into a variety of important factors that aim to help you turn more visitors into customers.