Customer communication: 7 tips to build an effective strategy
A strong customer communication strategy helps ensure your team can deliver consistent brand messaging and build meaningful connections with buyers.
Published June 1, 2022
Last updated June 1, 2022
Despite companies investing more than ever in customer service, most consumers aren’t happy with their experiences. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report 2022, only 21 percent of shoppers say companies make it easy to interact with them.
The best customer communication strategies arm your team with the tools and knowledge they need to engage with buyers according to their preferred communication methods and channels. Read on to learn more about customer communication, including:
- What is customer communication?
- Why is customer service communication important?
- Common customer communication channels
- 7 best practices to improve your customer communication strategy
What is customer communication?
Customer communication is how companies interact with consumers at each touchpoint along the buyer’s journey, from the ads that catch their attention to the post-purchase customer support experience.
What is customer communication management (CCM)?
Customer communication management (CCM) refers to the strategy, channels, and tools a company uses to communicate with its audience. Essentially, it’s how businesses create, deliver, and maintain their customer communications.
Proper customer communication management allows teams across the organization to share knowledge. The results and insights gained from marketing and sales communications should inform support interactions and vice versa.
CCM is a process that helps companies understand how their communication strategies are being perceived so they can adjust accordingly and coordinate better customer interactions. How a customer responds to marketing messages, engages with social media posts, and contacts your support agents—it all matters. Every interaction provides insights that can help you tailor future communication to the customer’s wants and needs.
Why is customer service communication important?
Customer communication plays a big role in your customer experience.
Our CX Trends Report shows the clear relationship between effective communication and a company’s ability to build relationships that improve customer engagement and retention. According to the report:
- 92 percent of customers will spend more with companies that ensure they won’t need to repeat information.
- 90 percent will spend more with companies that personalize the customer service they offer them.
- 89 percent will spend more with companies that allow them to find answers online without having to contact anyone.
A buyer’s decision to enter into or continue a business relationship with you depends greatly on how you communicate and, more importantly, how they perceive and interpret your communications.
Common customer communication channels
Consumers want an omnichannel experience—now more than ever. True omnichannel experiences provide connected and consistent customer interactions across multiple channels (email, live chat, phone, messaging apps, etc.).
Our CX Trends Report found that only 18 percent of customers are extremely satisfied with the number of communication channels companies offer. Just one-third of businesses are omnichannel, and merely 17 percent are set up with one platform that connects all channels.
Only 18% of customers are extremely satisfied with the number of communication channels companies offer.
If you’re not sure which channels you should offer, you should first provide the most common ones. From there, customer preferences will dictate the channels you should add or remove.
Phone and email
Outside of the face-to-face communication of a physical storefront experience, phone and email are the most traditional channels used for customer communication.
The phone is the best channel when you or your customer must discuss important, urgent issues and need quick responses. In our report, 66 percent of surveyed consumers said that they typically resolve their problems with a company over the phone.
SMS is another popular communication channel. According to a Cloudli report, 80 percent of customers want to text with their favorite businesses.
However, when a fast response isn’t necessary, email is the favored channel. Research by DMA found that customers prefer being contacted via email regardless of the content they’re being sent and which one of your teams is communicating with them.
80% of customers want to text with their favorite businesses.
For businesses, email messages can be adjusted to suit different audiences and tested to see what performs better.
Company websites are the most versatile and important customer communication channel. Your website acts as a station that allows visitors to choose their path and find their communication channel of choice.
Customers who want to engage immediately and directly can use live chat options. For those who don’t want to talk to a live agent, your website should make it just as easy to locate and access another communication channel, such as communities.
According to our CX Trends Report, customers are increasingly turning to social messaging apps to connect with companies. Inquiries over WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and similar messaging apps jumped 36 percent last year—higher than any other channel.
Our report also shows that it’s not just young consumers who prefer messaging. More than two-thirds of shoppers over the age of 40 also favor messaging apps.
What makes messaging apps popular for both businesses and customers? The seamless, uninterrupted conversations they provide. Instead of website live chats that start anew with each interaction, messaging apps create customer conversations that carry over from one interaction to another. This provides valuable context for your support team and saves customers from repeating their information in every interaction.
Companies can set up and use communities to communicate widespread brand messages and valuable information. Communities also promote customer-to-customer communication, leading to a sense of camaraderie.
Forums are a popular community type. They enable customers to interact with one another and bond over shared experiences. Forums are also a great place for businesses to connect with customers directly, answer questions, field suggestions, and demonstrate their expertise.
Social media is another way to share information and speak directly with your audience—which is what they want. According to a Sprout Social study, 40 percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media.
Aside from engaging with your followers and promptly replying to messages, you should also passively monitor your social media channels. You’ll gain valuable insights and feedback that customers would rather not share with you directly.
7 best practices to improve your customer communication strategy
Consumers no longer buy products—they buy experiences, which is why 56 percent of companies polled for our CX Trends Report stated that “driving better customer experiences” will be a top priority over the next year.
Customer experience includes anything that can affect a buyer’s perception or feelings toward a business. Your customer communication plays a large role in CX, so you want to do it right. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when building your customer communication strategy.
Invest in omnichannel communication
Communicating with customers via multiple channels and allowing them to contact you on the channels they prefer will improve every phase of the buyer’s journey. According to Omnisend, marketers using three or more channels in a campaign earned a 494 percent higher order rate than those using a single-channel campaign.
Omnichannel customer service communication can increase retention and sales, too. According to our CX Trends Report, 93 percent of customers spend more with companies that offer their preferred option for reaching customer service.
Collect feedback regularly
Evaluate the success of your customer communication strategy and make improvements where needed by collecting, analyzing, and implementing customer feedback.
Feedback helps identify pain points and faults in your product/service and how you’re communicating. Plus, customers feel appreciated when you ask for their opinions. You’re also creating an open dialogue that can establish customer trust and longer-lasting relationships.
Some of the best ways to get feedback from customers include sending surveys, requesting reviews, and monitoring social media.
Personalize your customer communications
Our CX Trends Report revealed that 68 percent of consumers expect all experiences to be personalized. When you personalize communications with your audience—whether that’s by using customer names or sending a customized email—it goes a long way toward building familiarity.
More sophisticated personalization requires customer segmentation. This enables you to craft tailored communication based on demographics and other customer characteristics you’ve identified. Segmentation begins with mapping the buyer’s journey and analyzing behavior to create personas according to their communication preferences.
Refine your internal communications
Positive customer communication begins with effective internal communication. Employees from different departments should be able to work together and rely on each other for support. Strong internal communication ensures your customer communication strategy is being implemented consistently across all teams and touchpoints, providing customers with a seamless experience.
Install systems and tools that make internal communication easy. Popular communication software like Slack can be used for internal chatting and video conferencing. Automated ticketing systems are another good option for improving collaboration and transparency when responding to customer inquiries.
Promote proactive communication
Be proactive when communicating with customers—don’t wait for them to initiate the interaction.
Whether you’re reaching out to buyers to ask for their feedback or alerting them about a shipping delay, it’s critical to practice proactive communication. It can mean the difference between customers coming back or leaving for good. In our report, 61 percent of consumers said they would switch to a company’s competitor after just one bad customer service experience.
First impressions are incredibly important in customer communication because you might not get a second chance. So, stay proactive by avoiding scripted communication when possible. Your first contact with a customer should be unscripted and performed by a real person, not a chatbot.
Our CX Trends Report shows that people are warming up to the idea of interacting with artificial intelligence and chatbots, but maintaining balance is still important. While you can use chatbots and AI to handle easy questions and reduce wait times, make sure your human agents are available to offer real-time, live support for complex issues.
Provide self-service options
Sometimes, the best communication is no communication at all. Use the feedback and insights you gather through customer communication to provide your audience with self-service options. According to our CX Trends Report, 70 percent of consumers expect a company to have a self-service portal or content available to them.
70% of consumers expect a company to have a self-service portal.
Use customer interactions to learn about common pain points and questions, then create content that addresses and resolves them.
Measure the right metrics
Determine which metrics are most important to you and measure them regularly.
Some key customer communication metrics include:
First response time (FRT): the amount of time it takes your support team to provide an initial response to a customer inquiry.
Average resolution time (ART): the average amount of time it takes your team to resolve a customer issue.
Customer satisfaction (CSAT): a measure of how well your team is meeting customer expectations.
Follow your most vital metrics to assess your team’s performance and improve your customer communication strategy.
Positive CX starts with the right customer communication technology
Equip your team with an all-in-one customer service platform that connects marketing, sales, and support. Robust software like Zendesk gives teams quick, easy access to customer data so they can stay in sync and deliver high-quality experiences.
Ensure consistent brand messaging across all touchpoints, gain insights to personalize interactions, and identify customer expectations at every stage of their journey to maximize your customer communication efforts.