“The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it.”
American sociologist and journalist William Whyte wrote this in his 1950 Fortune article titled: ‘Is Anybody Listening?’ He pointed out that people talk enough but don’t listen enough. Because of this, he adds, a gap exists between speaker and listener. Failing to bridge this gap can result in misunderstandings with long-term ramifications.
As a business owner, you must avoid falling into that trap. Countless companies have paid a heavy price for failing to convey their intended message to customers, with some never recovering to do business another day. According to tech analyst Josh Bernoff, poorly-written emails or letters can cost American companies close to USD$ 400 billion annually.
As 2021 saunters on, communication has taken a significant turn. People can no longer engage in physical conversation the way they did before the pandemic. Almost everything is done remotely, from text messaging to social media. It doesn’t imply that there’s no need to close the gap; in fact, the lack of face-to-face contact is all the more reason to communicate better.
Keeping in touch with your customer base demands versatile and reliable communication software. When combined with best practices, these suites can be powerful tools for reaching out to a broader market without going outside. Below are several ways communication software can be a great help in these difficult times.
Doing Business While Staying Safe
Among hospitals and clinics, outpatient services were among the first to go out when the pandemic hit. As healthcare institutions shifted to urgent care for COVID patients, they also realized that those suffering from other health conditions would be affected. Going to the hospital or clinic would be too dangerous, given the risk of contracting COVID, but outpatients still require constant care.
The situation has inspired the widespread adoption of telemedicine, which is a method of communicating with patients through videoconferencing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), telehealth visits jumped by 154% in March 2020 compared to the previous year. Around this time, more countries had been enforcing their respective quarantines and lockdowns, including the U.S.
Whether in healthcare or any other industry, remote communication has advanced beyond being a trend. Even after the health crisis winds down, experts believe it will most likely remain the norm as people grow more cautious. In a study of consumer behavior over the previous year, consultancy firm McKinsey found that e-groceries, telehealth, and stay-home lifestyles will stay for years.
If not for modern technology, communicating during a global crisis would be impossible. Solutions such as Drop Cowboy take advantage of existing infrastructure, offering features such as mass text messaging, ringless voicemail, and auto-dialers—all from a computer or mobile device. As long as you have the means, you can keep running your business from the safety of your home.
Of course, remote communication doesn’t eliminate the need for physical contact. There are some instances when you’ll still need to meet a customer in person, but answering queries and promoting new deals aren’t among them.
An Omnichannel Approach
The average American household owns an estimated 11 devices that are all connected to the World Wide Web, according to a 2019 survey by Deloitte. As new technologies like 5G networks slowly roll out, the survey adds, the figure may increase in the coming years. But what does this mean for your business? And why should it matter to you?
Having this many gadgets per household means there isn’t a single most ideal way to communicate anymore. It might have been the case before the digital age, where telegrams and newspapers were the primary media. But today, businesses need to connect with their customers on an extensive array of platforms and offer an integrated experience.
Such is the premise behind the omnichannel approach, the term “omni” meaning “in all ways or places.” It centers around a sales strategy that allows customers to make transactions no matter the device of choice. While this approach benefits from the current multichannel model, it differs from the latter as it gives the experience of shopping in one medium being no different from in another.
Your business should offer various ways to reach customers or be reachable. Every communication platform has its pros and cons, but using as many as possible enables one to make up for the other’s shortcomings. Here are a few examples.
- Email remains the undisputed king of digital communication for its huge ROI. However, not everyone will be able to open their inboxes and reply straight away. Sometimes, remembering a laundry list of email addresses can be a pain.
- Text messaging works as the message will instantly appear on people’s phones. Since most people are on their mobile devices, solutions like Text Blast take advantage of such a habit, with most messages read within minutes. But it lacks the versatility of email, as you can’t attach documents, images, or create overly long letters on a text.
- Social media allows you to reach out to an abundance of potential and current customers. Sites like Facebook and Twitter also make posting updates and answering questions faster and easier. But note that social media is also where customers vent their frustrations about poor customer experience, and having a substantial presence there can be dangerous.
- The humble telephone, which includes both phone and voicemail, is still useful in this digital economy. Nearly every small business starts with a landline as its means of reaching out. Of course, it can only work if there’s a person on the other end.
- Personal interaction with customers is effective as far as today’s consumer trends are concerned since more customers demand a personalized experience. However, you must be available when the customer needs you to be, which is sometimes impossible.
It’s also worth noting that the pandemic has also forced customers young and old to learn and use their gadgets more. Harnessing the strength of every platform your business can get its hands on makes for seamless and worry-free communication. It’s not a question of how many communication methods or software your business must utilize, but it’s a matter of which ones are worth the investment, effort, and time.
Public Activity and Transparency
Consumers appreciate a brand that’s consistently active and honest, assuring them of a prompt and accurate response to their concerns. Earning the trust of a few can be more important than reaching out to many, of which the latter would happen anyway through referrals. The right communication tools can help achieve that for your business.
Take the case of peer-to-peer (P2P) financial startup NeuronChain, and its NeuronEx P2P exchange project. The platform claims to be the fastest in the industry, processing up to 100,000 transactions a second and performing transfers in as fast as 3 seconds. It made its debut in July 2020, touted as the foundation for building a new global financial network.
Any initiative that involves cryptocurrencies will face its share of criticism from the industry and doubts from general consumers—NeuronChain is no different. To allay users’ fears, it maintains a high degree of activity in social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Involving people in the development of the platform builds its credibility, more so under transparent practices.
This example illustrates the importance of hosting channels where consumers can leave comments or submit concerns. Businesses can be made aware of the information and use it to improve their processes. As they inform consumers about such developments, they can also bring peace of mind.
Your business would want to be transparent today, given the internet is rife with false information. How you use communication software reflects on your business. You wouldn’t want customers to brand your company as questionable, if not unethical, for pestering them with endless messages to the point of spam. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to lie to them, not in an age where looking details up is as easy as firing up Google.
Customers are well-aware that companies can make mistakes. No company is perfect, and no one should claim that they are. Admitting faults and remedying them when necessary build customer loyalty. They will remain loyal and even pay more for a brand that knows when it’s in the wrong.
Process Accounts and Financial Matters Conveniently
By using software programs, businesses can easily and quickly manage accounting and finance matters, including customers’ payments. In this way, customers will be assured of and confident about processing payments online using your website or app.
One perfect example is processing payments using software such as automated clearing houses or ACH. ACH payments are different from using debit or credit card numbers. ou need the customer’s bank account details (account and routing numbers). This mode of payment involves crediting or debiting cash from one bank account to another.
However, before businesses can process ACH payments, they have to obtain permission from customers by having them sign an ACH authorization form. Companies can collect ACH authorization through paper authorization forms, phone authorization, online authorization, and via third-party payment processors (TPPP).
Paper ACH authorization forms are at risk of errors, such as the loss of records due to human mishandling or natural disaster. Hence, online authorization is a better option. Most banks nowadays offer online ACH payment authorization forms. However, the process doesn’t promote a user-friendly experience because integration with online business software is missing.
With TPPP, businesses can benefit from integrating payment collection practices to attain a better customer experience. They can incorporate TPPP ACH payment authorization into backend operations, particularly accounting software.
The Trifecta of Brand Humanity
For the record, honesty and accountability are crucial in communicating with customers. However, these emotional factors pale compared to the top three: responsiveness, social, and friendliness—the trifecta of brand humanity.
The principle comes from a joint study by research firm Forrester and software company Braze in 2018. It surveyed over 3,000 consumers aged 18 and above who make online transactions at least once a month. Over half of the consumers said they would pay more to have human communication respond to their queries or concerns than chatbots.
Here’s a closer look at the trifecta and how communication software can benefit each.
The speed at which companies deliver their reply to a customer matters a lot. In a 2019 survey of small businesses, nearly six out of ten said they felt the pressure to respond within one hour or less. They risked losing potential and existing customers if they took too long, which one in two would certainly do.
Equally significant is the medium used for delivering the response. Phone calls and emails are the most prevalent, but the latter can get lost in the sea of other new messages. Text messages and social media aren’t as widely used, but they make up for such a shortcoming by delivering responses right before a customer’s eyes.
Customers’ personalities are snowflakes—no two are exactly alike, even when observed under a microscope. Understanding how one talks over the phone or sends messages via social media, however challenging, is essential for proper communication. Fortunately, businesses typically complete conversations by adopting one of four approaches (or a mix of multiple or all):
- Analytical – For the rational and objective consumer, easily persuaded when presented with facts and figures. Respect their knowledge about the product or service.
- Decisive – For the quick and assertive consumer who cares more about getting results quickly and efficiently. Get straight to the point and avoid small talk.
- Amiable – For the agreeable and friendly consumer who values personal relationships and long-term partnerships. Discuss terms and issues in a conversational format.
- Enthusiastic – For the expressive and charismatic consumer who tends to see the big picture before anything else. Be energetic in explaining the solutions on the table.
Specific communication platforms work more effectively for each kind of consumer. A quick messaging solution like text messaging or chat, for instance, can provide decisive customers the information they need.
In dealing with customers, respectable businesses never fight fire with fire. They don’t answer a customer’s seething rage with their own, as it won’t bring both parties closer to the solution. Remaining a friendly voice amidst the negativity can grant businesses the moral high ground, not to mention coming up with solutions more efficiently.
You can establish a friendly tone regardless of the platform, though voice-based ones achieve that a little better. Make your choice and tone of words mirror that of a reliable friend to keep a professional image. Of course, achieving this requires tons of patience on you and your employee’s part.
Seventy years after Whyte published his piece on illusory communication, the world still has many ways to go before arriving at a solution. However, it’s not fair to dismiss efforts to overcome such a challenge as pointless.
The presence of communication technologies suggests that people, namely those that created them, came to an understanding at one point. No matter the situation, people will still attempt to reach a mutual agreement with one another. What would be the point of sending text messages en masse, let alone calling customers over the phone otherwise?
Several years from now, communication software will remain a staple of businesses big and small. That’s why it should be an investment as early as now.