Updated: Dec 12, 2019
When you phone most companies these days, you know you are going to waste time listening to a sales pitch (you are already a customer), then keying in your ID number, then your secret code, then pressing five different random numbers to find the department you think you need and then, if all your stars are aligned, you will reach a human who will request all the personal information you just keyed in and then - and only then - will you be able to tell the human your problem. And don’t even get me started about the ring-around-the-rosy phone call forwarding you may suffer should no one seem to be able to answer your question/solve your problem.
I always imagine this call center as a small room with some five bored, poorly paid college kids throwing a foam ball at each other, while they “transfer your call”. I don’t care if the Call center is manned by tens, maybe hundreds, of well-educated, well-paid technicians just waiting to ‘handle your call’; the naked truth is you have just entered the third circle of hell and until your problem is solved, you know you will waste the next x number of hours, repeating and re-repeating your tale of woe to countless – faceless telephone operators – not waiting to handle your call.
Large businesses can ‘get away’ with this kind of business practice and behavior – your small business cannot! If you are hard to reach or unavailable, then people, even customers, will turn to one of your competitors. Do you think you are the only game in town, because you are the only one to provide your kind of service in your area? Think again! We no longer travel by camel, the roads are pretty good and thank G-D for GPS; so customers - even happy ones – will become former customers if you are not available to provide what they need – when they need it.
As a small business owner, you need to be almost continuously available or at the least, convey the impression that you are always available. To accomplish this you need to provide your customers and potential customers with a variety of communication methods, each with its own look and feel and functionality.
When designing the look and feel of each method keep the following four points in mind:
1. Think like a customer. Which communication methods do you prefer to use to contact a small business for the first time? Which methods do you use to contact a small businesses you use regularly? Which methods cause you the least amount of stress?
2. Always remember KISS! Keep every method simple and straightforward for anyone to use.
3. Don’t forget your branding! Employ your logo, tagline and color palette wherever possible.
4. Analyze how well each method is working. Do you get more emails than phone calls, more Facebook messages than website messages? The reasons for these preferences could be as simple as the amount of traffic to your business Facebook page is higher than to your site or your clientele prefers to get a quote by email rather than talking to you directly. Whatever the reason, always ensure that each method is easy-to-use and easy-to-access.
Some of the methods at your disposal:
I discussed several of Facebook’s business contact features in my July newsletter (signup today for my monthly newsletter www.yessociates.com). Facebook is one of the easiest ways for potential clients to find you and communicate with you. Why? All someone needs is your name and a few minutes of time and they can find you and then your business page. Make sure your business page looks professional with a cover photo and profile picture that represents you and your brand and contains posts that are compelling, on-topic and current (if your last post is dated even three months ago – no one will look at your page).
Your website should be the hub for all your links. This is great for SEO and for your customers. Your website footer should include links to all your social media and a link to your email.
Every page in your site should have a link to your Contact page. Your Contact page should list all your relevant contact details: phone, email (with a link that opens an email account, containing a pre-set subject line). This page should also contain links to social media and a map and physical address, if this is pertinent to your business.
A short, easy-to-complete contact form should be found on (at least) your Contact page. The form needs only minimal information: name, email and phone. Keep it simple and people WILL use it.
Whether you have a dedicated business email account or you use one account (*) for both personal and business emails, you need to have a business signature. As the world no longer revolves around a 9 to 5 job, so the etiquette of separation between work and personal life is no longer an issue. Your email signature should contain: your name, logo, tagline, contact details, website and minimal social media links.
(*) I used to believe that a dedicated email was a must, until I worked with clients who themselves could not handle multiple email accounts; they forgot to check one or the other, became confused between the two and so on. The best answer here is – do what works best for your working style.
While LinkedIn is a more appropriate vehicle for B2B (business to business) businesses, B2C (business to customer) businesses should not totally ignore this social media networking service. This can be a great place to reconnect with former contacts, connect with others in your field and possibly, find quality leads.
My feeling regarding a dedicated phone line are the same as for an email account (see above (*)). I use my mobile phone for both business and personal calls – BUT my message reflects my business. Create a business message that includes the name of your business, what you do and what you wish the caller to do and what you will then do. Write down your script, practice saying it clearly and at a good pace, smile when you talk (it does make a difference!) and record and re-record your message until you are happy with the result.
Never lose sight of the fact that communication is a two-way street. It is just as important that your customers communicate with you as it is that you communicate with your customers.
Want to know more about building and branding your small business? Contact me today. Make today the day you and your business work together.
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