The big communication mistakes your customers love to pick on

Sylvia Pennington

Aiming to attract hardcore repeat business to your small business? Excellent customer communication can mean the difference between a client base that’s fiercely loyal and one that can take or leave what you have to sell.

Communications trainer and founder of the Australian School of Copywriting Bernadette Schwerdt calls out the common communication failings that can scupper your success.

I’ll get back to you… eventually

A customer’s not happy and they’ve taken the trouble to let you know it. Addressing their gripe may not be how you want to spend your afternoon, but ignoring them is guaranteed to incur additional ire.

“Nothing annoys a customer more than not hearing back,” Schwerdt says.

“Even if you can’t resolve it immediately, let them know you’ve received it and give them a time frame for when you will. Complaints are like baked-on eggs in a pan – the longer you leave them sit, the harder they are to clean up.”

Not enough info

Not sure what your clients want to know about the project you’re undertaking for them? Less can sometimes be more – but it’s rarely the case for small businesses in this situation.

“When in doubt, always tell the customer more than they need to know about their account, their question or their project,” Schwerdt says.

“Sometimes the piece of information you think is immaterial is the exact piece they need to know.”

When in doubt, always tell the customer more than they need to know about their account, their question or their project.

Dangerous assumptions

Got something new to offer but don’t bother sharing with customers who you think won’t have the cash to spend? Your mistake – and it could cost you dear.

“Never assume what the client can afford,” Schwerdt says.

“For all you know, the idea you suggest could be the solution to a longstanding problem. If an idea is strong enough and it fixes a costly issue, the money will be found.”

And can I just ask…

Does your website include an FAQ section which answers 90 per cent of the queries customers typically pose before they hand over their hard earned? Communications 101 fail if you answered in the negative.

“Help customers over the line by anticipating questions – both the basic ones and outliers,” Schwerdt says.

“The more information they have about your product, the more comfortable they will be buying it.”

Help customers over the line by anticipating questions – both the basic ones and outliers.

I’m sorry

Like to be sure you’re definitely in the wrong before you’re prepared to offer a grudging expression of regret?

Being slow to apologise, even if a problem’s not of your making, can leave customers bristling – and less likely to buy from you again.

“One of the fastest ways to take the heat out of a potentially difficult conversation is to say ‘I’m sorry’ quickly and sincerely,” Schwerdt says.

“It neutralises the customer and makes them more receptive to a solution.”

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

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