When communicating with your customers, there’s no shortage of options. You can give them a call, send an email or even text them on their mobile phone. (And don’t forget about video conferencing and online chat.)
But each type of customer communication has its own pros and cons, and if you don’t choose wisely, you could end with less-than-ideal communications—or worse, damage to your customer relationships.
“Phone calls, SMS text messaging, and email are all important means of communicating with customers,” says Jane Flanagan, marketing director for Tacuna Systems, a Golden, Colorado-based R&D and engineering firm. “But you need to know which to use when.”
Here’s a look at three main types of customer communication and when it does—and doesn’t—make sense to use them:
Holding a one-on-one phone call with a customer shows you value their business by devoting your valuable time to a full conversation with them.
Phone calls are especially useful when there’s something urgent, in-depth or important you need to discuss, Flanagan says. They can be the best option for activities such as:
- Discussing customers’ needs in detail
- Checking in with long-time or very important customers, when you need to build trust and rapport
- Letting them know about a problem, such as a shipment delay or order error
- Asking them for sensitive information that they wouldn’t want to provide over email or text
You should generally only discuss sensitive information over a call, video conference or even in person, says Diane Gayeski, a professor of strategic communications at Ithaca College in New York. “Email and texting can be misinterpreted much more easily because you can’t get the nuance of someone’s vocal or facial expression, and you want to connect with them personally,” she says.
That said, many people don’t pick up phone calls they’re not expecting—so make sure to schedule calls in advance or at least let customers know you plan to call them.
Emails, by contrast, can be conveniently read by someone whenever and wherever they have time—whether immediately after receipt or hours later. It’s a great way to send customers important, yet non-urgent and non-sensitive, information, such as:
- Providing general information about a new product or service
- Sending a purchase receipt or contract
- Doing a quick (yet non-urgent) check-in of their customer experience
- Thanking them for their business
- Sending a lengthy customer survey
- Delivering a monthly or weekly e-newsletter with useful, engaging information
“Email is professional, gets the job done—it’s not invasive,” says Jonathan Newar, CEO of Captain Experiences, a booking site for deep-sea charter fishing trips. He uses email most frequently, he says, but will turn to the phone for urgent and important matters
Texting customers has become more common in recent years, with so many people carrying mobile phones. And there are a host of business applications—from TextMagic to Avochato—that make customer SMS text conversations easier to manage.
That said, sending a text message is more invasive than an email, because mobile phones typically alert someone every time a new text arrives.
Texts can be great for delivering timely and short information—such as:
- Letting someone know their order is ready for pickup
- Asking a customer a question that needs a fast response
- Delivering digital coupons that are handy to have stored in someone’s text message stream
Keep in mind that some customers might not use all of these forms of communication, or they may have a strong preference toward one. Some people, for example, still don’t check their email regularly or aren’t proficient texters. So it’s best to ask customers how they prefer to be communicated with, Gayeski says.
“Some people—especially perhaps older customers who are not in the workforce—like to use the phone and may not use email or texting,” she says. “However, for others a phone call may be seen as an intrusion into their flow of work or their personal time.”
Spectrum Business offers internet and voice plans to ensure you’re ready for all forms of customer communications. Contact us at 855-299-9353 to learn more. We can help you determine the right plan to meet your needs.
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