The Customer is Always Right: Consumer Communication Preferences and SMBs
As a small business, you likely have a loyal customer base — evangelists who share your products and services with their friends and associates. While word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful asset, businesses large and small are doing their best to snag new customers (including your existing clients). And with research from HubSpot indicating that acquiring new customers is 60 percent more expensive than it used to be, keeping your customers happy is more important than ever. So, what’s a small business owner to do?
A customer-centric mindset and operational model are critical; that same HubSpot research revealed excellent customer service is key, with 93 percent of customers reporting customer experience as a driving factor for repeat business. The foundation of excellent customer service is communication and understanding how customers want to interact with your team.
If you haven’t considered how your customers want to reach you, you might be falling short — and potentially missing the mark when it comes to customer experience.
But fear not! Recent research from Cloudli Communications reveals just what your customers are looking for from you when it comes to communication. Here are three insights about consumer communication preferences that can help you get a handle on what your customers expect.
Insight 1: 93 percent of Consumers Who Support Local Businesses Want Text and Voice Options
According to Pew Research, 97% of smartphone users make use of SMS messaging at least once per day. This level of familiarity with text messaging extends to how these users interact with small businesses, but it’s not as simple as just whipping out your mobile device and sending a text to a customer.
The key detail in this first insight is the and. Consumers don’t just want to text your business, they want the option to call as well. And you must be purposeful about how you implement text messaging alongside voice communications— or you risk creating a disjointed and confusing customer experience where it’s hard to keep track of the customer journey — the opposite effect you’re intending!
The solution? Think of voice calls and SMS as two sides of the same coin. Strive to ensure that whether a customer calls or texts, you have a record of every interaction. Be sure to include the ability to easily see their latest communication, who responded, and any contextual clues to the nature of their interaction so you can anticipate their needs and tailor a proactive response.
Insight 2: Customer Communication Preferences Depend on Your Type of Business
When it comes to customer communication preferences, the type of product or service you offer dictates the relative importance of SMS vs voice communications for your business.
As part of the Cloudli survey, consumers were asked whether they preferred voice calls or text messages for different types of businesses and the results were revealing. If you’re running a service business, consumers prefer text over voice by a factor of nearly three times. For retail and restaurants, the preference for text over voice is two to one. When it comes to health and wellness or financial services, texting still maintains an edge over voice calls, but consumer preference for one over the other is less notable.
Regardless of the type of business you operate, the data shows that SMS must be a part of your customer communications strategy. Just how critical texting will be for your business, will vary.
Insight 3: Convenience is King
Above all, customers and clients crave convenience. And to create convenience, as Stephanie Burns writes for Forbes, businesses need to focus on removing points of friction that may emerge as a consumer is buying from or interacting with your brand.
What happens when there’s too much friction and not enough convenience? 87 percent of consumers have turned to online providers to bridge the gap — and that means your business will lose out. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix you can implement to remedy this trend. If you guessed texting, you’re right: 78 percent of consumers said text messaging would make it easier to support local businesses.
Get the Message: Consumers Want Text
Regardless of the type of business you run, the data is clear: SMS is a must-have for small, local businesses, creating the critical convenience factor that enhances the customer’s experience and prevents them from looking for large, online alternatives.
However, equally important to offering SMS options for communication is ensuring that your text and voice communications remain coordinated for each customer. According to Salesforce research, 85 percent of consumers expect consistent interactions when they interact with a business. So, if you implement text messaging for your business in a way that it remains siloed from your other communication channels, you may find that you are not providing customers with their desired experience.
Getting it Right
Implementing SMS alongside your standard phone communications can be seamless and easy. If you have a legacy phone system in place, you might be struggling to see how you can introduce text to your business without causing additional complexity. Fortunately, innovative technologies have emerged in response to consumers’ simultaneous demands for SMS, convenience, and consistency.
Investigating these options that offer consolidated voice and SMS combined with adding enhanced Business Texting features will allow your SMB to better address consumer communication preferences while reinforcing your role as a preferred provider for your loyal customers.