How to Talk to Customers So They Don’t Run Away
Part 1 of the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Good Communication
How you talk to your customers is a big deal. Good communication is more effective at growing your brand than any paid advertising you can think of. Think pleasant customer service, thoughtful emails, personal DMs, back-and-forth banter on social media – good communication is fundamental to any successful business.
That’s why you and your team need to know how to talk to your customers, so they leave satisfied, come back for more, and recommend your business to other people. Like I said: it’s a big deal!
Here are some basic tips:
1. Be natural even if you’re writing.
The first and most important rule of good communication: talk to your customers like people. As easy as the internet has made it to talk to people from all over the country (and the world), it’s also made conversations very impersonal. We tend to look at our conversation partner as an abstract concept, a faceless figure, or just a number. And that destroys any chance of forming a real connection with your customers.
Therefore, no matter if you’re speaking on the phone, writing an email, or a social media message, or an SMS (literally any form of communication you’re using), put a face to your conversation partner. Talk to your customers just like you’d talk to a real person sitting in front of you, with real problems and desires. Then, whatever line you want to say next, ask yourself, would you say it the same way to that person facing you?
For example, which of the following 2 statements do you think would be received better?
“You are being transferred to our customer happiness department.”
“Let me transfer you to my colleagues who know more about this issue, and can help you out.”
Spoiler: the second one.
Rule of thumb: if you don’t talk like that in real life, don’t talk like that to your customers either.
Bonus: use the active voice as opposed to the passive voice. Replace something like “an answer will be sent to you” with “we’ll send you an answer”. Using the active voice makes the conversation more dynamic. It shows your customers that they’re talking to people, not to a soulless company.
2. Maintain a consistent and positive tone.
On a scale of positivity ranging from 0 (angry) to 10 (ecstatic), you should keep all your customer communication to about an 8. Yes, even when you’re having a bad day. Even when it rains. Even when your head hurts, and you feel like punching everyone in the face. Don’t punish your customers for your troubles. They have enough troubles of their own without you being unpleasant.
Can you tell the difference between the following 2 questions?
“What else can I help you with?”
The first one sounds somewhat passive-aggressive, doesn’t it? Your customers are sure to pick up on it, and won’t reward you with a good review.
How about the following?
“We don’t do that.”
“Yes, that could be useful, but unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to offer that at the moment. Thank you for reaching out.”
If you’re thinking that it takes more words to say something “nicely” to people, you’re right, it does. But those few “extra” words will humanize the conversation and let your customers know you care.
3. Stay on point, but don’t be pushy.
I know you want to put a checkmark next to your current customer query and move on to the next, but good customer service doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be patient, listen, and ask specific questions to drive the conversation.
Don’t rush through your replies. Clients will notice if you’re trying to get rid of them, or if you’re ignoring their opinions. All they want is to be heard.
On the other hand, long emails won’t work either. People never read big blocks of text. They skip right over them and complain that you haven’t answered their questions right. That’s just how things work.
My advice: acknowledge their ideas/concerns/questions, and give short, friendly answers. Make your customers feel like they’re talking to a human being, not a soulless robot. But do remember that you are not their BFF, so don’t go into swapping taco recipes and talking about your families. You are just a helpful, friendly neighbor.
4. Use their name and talk their talk.
Matching your interlocutor’s tone is not an easy skill to master. It takes practice (and even some talent). The easiest way to start is to use a friendly tone if your customer’s tone is friendly too. Switch to a serious, problem-solving tone if your customer is angry. Or bring on the positive vibes if they’re excited.
Don’t try to copy them completely because you’ll end up annoying them. After all, it’s not a game of “monkey”. It’s a business transaction.
What also helps make conversations more agreeable is mentioning people’s names in replies. Start with “Dear John” or “Hi, Karen” whenever possible. It’s a sure way to bridge the gap between you and the client. Mentioning their name shows that you took the time to find out who you’re talking to, and that they’re more than just a number to you. You’re almost friends. 🙂
5. Reply fast.
I shouldn’t even be saying this, but REPLY ASAP. Few things are as annoying as being kept waiting by companies claiming “we care about our customers” or “your opinion is important to us”. You can skip all these marketing empty claims, and stick to getting back to people fast. As fast as humanly possible.
Solving people’s problems quickly is how you SHOW your customers that you care. As a result, they will trust you more, they will come back to buy your products/services, they will recommend you to their friends… all because you didn’t waste their time. Good for you!
6. Avoid “controversial” language.
If you’re not sure how your joke is going to be received, better not use it. While you’re at it, you’d do well to avoid political, religious, sexual, and pop culture references altogether. People come in all shapes and sizes, with different opinions, preferences and baggage, so steer clear of anything that can be considered controversial.
Some jokes fit this description too. But the main problem with jokes is that most of them don’t translate well in writing. Sometimes, irony and sarcasm are implied in the way we SAY things and can be misunderstood when we WRITE them.
There are 2 reasons why you’re allowed to break this rule: 1 – your brand is itself “controversial” (you sell controversy, laughter, sarcasm, etc.); 2 (and this works only for humor) – your client is in a funny mood, so you’re allowed to match it.
7. Use simple, clear language.
How to talk to your customers when giving lengthy instructions? Like with any other piece of writing, simplify. Give instructions in chronological order, make bullet points and numbered lists – anything that can help structure your message and leave no room for interpretation.
So, when explaining to a client how to make a booking on your page, don’t tell them to log in without first mentioning where the log in button is. That goes for more complex explanations too: like how to install a plugin, or how to put together a piece of furniture.
What to do: break down the process into its simplest parts, put them in chronological order, and write them in the simplest words possible (that even a 5-year-old would understand). Yes, even the ones that are so obvious you don’t see the point in writing. They will not be as obvious to some of your customers.
And one more thing: avoid idioms and difficult words, especially if you’re dealing with a foreign-language customer.
8. Offer to help further, but do not insist.
Now… this is the part of the conversation that can go terribly wrong. Imagine this scenario:
You have a productive talk with a client who ends up purchasing a product and is ready to leave, satisfied.
You think to yourself… this is a good time to sell them something else, or at least mention something else that they might be interested in (and you’d be right).
You tell the client about that other product/service they may need (great job!).
They say they’re not interested at the moment.
You continue talking about said product/service (voice in your head is saying “it may be time to stop”).
They say they’re not interested at the moment. Again.
You tell them about another product/service (voice in your head is saying “stop now”).
They say they’d like you to remove all their client data from your database.
You say “but wait… I haven’t told you about our discounts yet”.
They leave the conversation and block your ID.
Where do you think you should have stopped? 🙂
The way you end conversations is as important as the way you start them. Don’t slam the door in their face, but don’t linger for story time either. Ask them if there’s anything else you can do to help, offer them something else that they may find useful, but UNLESS the customer asks you more questions or wants to buy something else or has any other business-related things to discuss with you, say good-bye.
Respect their choice to leave the conversation and end on a high note. They may choose to stop by again later, but if you stalk them into buying more stuff then and there, you’ll only guarantee failure.
Better sign off with something like:
“Glad we could help. Let us know if there’s anything else that’s giving you trouble.”
“Happy to help. We’re here if you need any more assistance.”
Remember to talk to your customers in a natural voice, and treat them like human beings. They are the people sitting next to you on the plane, passing you by on the street, standing in queue at the supermarket. Visualize your customers, listen to them, and try to be as helpful as you can. Treat them as you’d like to be treated. It’s that easy. Isn’t it?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We look forward to reading about your best/worst client communication experiences.
And check out Part 2 of the NerdPilots Guide to Good Business Communication for tips on how to get good reviews.