7 Ways To Effectively Communicate With Customers And Coworkers
BY: TASNIM SADDIQUEE ON TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2018
Much to business professionals’ chagrin – and occasional inconvenience – that slogan applies to the myriad ways they must use to communicate with clients, prospects, and team members today.
This is due to an extraordinary double whammy: Technological advances have created more modes of communication than ever before and we have more generations active in the workforce and marketplace than in previous decades.
Consider these communication preferences:
- 1. Voice calls
- 2. Text messages
- 3. Email
- 4. Faxes
- 5. Paper
- 6. Online chat
- 7. Video “phone” calls, chats, and group sessions.
My list doesn’t even touch the subdivisions that exist within several of these. For example, some consumers and employees have a distinct preference when it comes to chat apps and some of these apps, like Slack, have been developed specifically for business environments.
Layer generational differences on top of this matrix of communication modes and you begin to appreciate how easy it is for communication roadblocks – or at least long detours – to spring up. Imagine a young development team trying to keep a far-less-tech-savvy Boomer manager in the loop via Slack when the Boomer is just getting comfortable with cell phone texting.
So how high is your communication IQ? Can you seamlessly navigate the various apps and hardware configurations that you might be called on to use as you move your business forward? Below is a quick overview of the main players in this field. See how many you would feel comfortable using right now. And, if there are areas where you are a little less confident, make it a goal to get up to speed.
Voice calls. We’ve gone a long way from the hand-cranked phones, and even the old rotary dial phones, but much is still the same – especially on the personal side of a phone conversation. For many older business professionals (although I don’t want to be too ageist here) picking up the phone is the go-to mode of communication. Cell phones have become our work phones, accessible and dependable to close deals anytime anywhere. However, cellphone signals can be weak indoors due to building materials which may negatively affect your communications with clients. Consider getting a good cell phone signal booster, because every bit of technology investment you make can bring big revenue back to you.
In your circle of colleagues and clients, can you identify those who prefer to communicate person-to-person over the phone? You may have some vendors who will give you the best service if you take time to talk. In the same way, 800 numbers are still important to consumers and they are a feature small businesses should not overlook.
Text messages. Among the newer technologies, standard cell phone text messages are probably the most well accepted with all the generations active in business and commerce. The advantages with business associates are obvious. You can get quick and usually very timely access to whomever you need to communicate. And, don’t overlook the power of SMS marketing for small business. For some businesses, retailers especially, even a list of a few as 25 contacts in your SMS marketing campaign can be profitable.
Email. I’ve noticed that some older business professionals use email almost like chat. If that’s you, it’s probably time to look into a chat app for the sake of efficiency. In any case, almost every year someone writes the obituary for email, but it just isn’t going away.
However, I’m willing to bet that most email in-boxes are overflowing. Consider adding “read receipts” to your important email correspondence. G-mail and Outlook both have features that allow you to be sure your message was actually seen by its recipient.
Faxes. It wasn’t long ago that zipping documents back and forth via fax was a cutting edge business practice. This was especially true when documents required signing. Today cloud-based document systems, like Adobe’s system and others have reduced the use of fax machines for this type of application.
However, they are still workhorses in some businesses and many professionals prefer them to other systems, so you need to have the right tools. Today, a mobile fax app can replace the machine that used to sit in the corner of your office. Moving to an app is also a lot more eco-friendly – you can drastically reduce the amount of paper and electricity consumed.
Paper. I just mentioned how faxes are popular among those who like to have a paper document or report in their hands. I have to admit that there are many times when paper is the most efficient way to work with a document or report. I can flip pages and find a passage more quickly than I can scan screens…although the printed page doesn’t have a search function built into it.
In business, a printed report sent via snail mail can draw more attention than a PDF attached to an email. Further, printed marketing materials – both B2B and B2C – can be extremely effective. Even Google and Apple sometimes use mailers for marketing purposes.
Chat apps. There are too many players in this field to discuss them all, but you need to understand the chap app variations available to you and how they might fit into your plans.
Many consumers appreciate live chat features on the websites where they do business. It’s really becoming a standard form of customer service. Similarly, chatbots on Facebook business pages are becoming very popular for marketing. Snapchat and Whatsapp are also proving to be valuable marketing tools for some small business.
On the professional side, Slack and Stride have been developed expressly for work teams. They integrate with a large number of software tools you probably already use and you can configure groups that align with projects, products, department, etc.
Video. We’ve been beating the video drum for probably five years or more…and we haven’t been wrong. Many communication solutions have video options build into them, even Skype. Google Video Hangouts can be great for company meetings and even sessions with clients or customers. I know some “virtual companies” where team members start the day with a Google Video Hangout. They can also be used with customers to introduce new products, explain features, or deliver some kind of update.
Facebook Live is proving to be very valuable for marketing. Considering the current state of Facebook, it’s an excellent way to reach fans of your Facebook business page. While your posts may not make it to their news feed, you can be almost sure that they will be notified of your Facebook Live “broadcast” if they are on Facebook when you’re live.
Did you find any application in the above that you aren’t taking advantage of yet? Can you picture your coworkers, prospects, clients, and vendors and know which of the above is their preferred method of communication?
Arm yourself with all these communication modes – don’t settle for “second best” in your business communications.
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