When customers complain about poor communication

Many businesses are guilty of poor communications with customers – and the sad part is that most of them are not even aware of this as only 4% of unhappy customers will tell them!

There are 4 key reasons why customers feel a business is poor at communicating:

The business does not understand the customer need

Many businesses focus on their product/service and processes and the benefits they offer the business and its customers, especially when developing a new product or service. Completely understandable, but absolutely wrong!

You should always start with the customer need – what problem are you trying to solve – work backwards from this. And this is also true about communications. What will the customer need to know at this point, and at every point along the customer journey, whether they are thinking of buying for the first time, or making a repeat purchase, complaining or wanting to leave?

You need to make sure that you understand the different journeys customers can go through and what communication they will need to take them through step by step – and that leads onto the next point:

The business does not use the right channels for communicating

As well as understanding the customer need, you need to know which channel of communication they want to use. This will depend on what step of the customer journey they are on and how they are feeling.

The right channel will vary according to the type of customer, so you need to work out what your different customer types are, what channels each prefers and what they would use each channel for.

For example, if your customer is young and tech savvy, they will be mainly dealing with you online and will expect to be able to get most if not all of the information they need online, either through hitting a help button or using LiveChat or similar. They will not want to be wading through long, detailed explanations or instructions so would want short snappy videos. They may even be prepared to complain online or via social media but would expect an almost instant response.

However, if your customer is older or less tech savvy, they are more likely to use a mix of online and offline channels. They may well be happy to trawl through a detailed set of instructions but are likely to want a telephone helpline – and will expect that to be answered quickly in working hours. They are also much more likely to pick up the telephone to complain and will expect a written apology.

For any type of customer, the third point is also key:

The business does not use language the customer understands.

When you run or are working in a business, you have a much greater knowledge of your products and processes than a customer can ever have. You will also have a high level of knowledge about your industry. All this means that you are likely to get into the habit of using industry specific terminology that is clear to you but would just confuse someone with less knowledge (the customer!).

Whenever you are creating customer facing communications, you need to write with your customer in mind. Make sure you have detailed written descriptions of your typical customers, give each of them names and, when you are writing or recording, keep asking yourself “Would Joe/Anna/Mary etc understand this?”

Try to keep everything as simple as possible. Get others to review what you have written, especially people who represent your typical customers, and, if you have the budget, get a professional copywriter to draft all communications for you.

Once you are happy that you have a piece of communication that your customer needs and can understand, the fourth point is key:

The timing of communications is not always right

You need to know when your customer wants a communication, as well as what it should be about and the channel and language you should use.

This may seem obvious, but many companies get it wrong and leave their customers hunting around for what they consider a vital piece of information.

Here is a simple example:

I signed up for a one-year subscription to a service that enabled me to create videos for my business. I was attracted by a heavily discounted price. During the buying process, there was lots of small print that explained it was a rolling contract and that it would revert to the normal price after the first year. Well, like many people no doubt, I read through that quickly and signed up.

So, one year on, I noticed that the company had taken a large payment from my credit card, and the same day received an email from them which thanked me for renewing my subscription and including a link to the receipt. I was not happy, got onto their website to complain but ended up having to send a chain of emails to their customer service team and waiting a day for each response. This left me angry and frustrated.

Where did they go wrong? Well, after I had bought the only communications I received were a thank you email straight after buying and a link to instructions on how to create great videos. I used the service for a few months but then stopped. At that point they should have noticed and sent me reminder emails to make sure I got as much value as possible from their service. As my contract neared the end they should have sent me further reminders about how I could get value, plus tell me that the contract would be renewed at the normal rate. If they had, I would have been likely to renew. As they did not, I became a complainer and leaver!

To summarise:

To avoid customers complaining that your business is poor at communicating, understand your customer and their needs, use the channels that they prefer, use language that they will understand and make sure you are proactive at communicating at times they need it!

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