Managing customer communication

By Jonathan Sweet

From landing sales to managing expectations in the service department, communication is essential to keeping customers happy.

Poor customer communication can sink a company. It’s a simple undertaking, but one on which companies consistently fall short. Customers will quickly bail on a company that doesn’t deliver a good customer experience. Nearly two-thirds of customers rank customer experience as more important than price when making a buying decision.

Here are six key factors to think about when creating a customer communication strategy.

1. Always on

According to Edelman Digital, 53% of consumers expect a response in less than an hour – seven days a week. It’s even more stark when it comes to millennials – 60% of that age group expects a response in less than 10 minutes.

Consumers expect an instant response, so that means somebody at your company should be monitoring all your communication channels every day. That’s not only phone and email, but social media accounts as well.

2. Be flexible

Every customer wants to be updated and communicated with in different ways from text to email to phone. It’s important to craft your communication strategy to adapt to whatever those clients want. What is the best way to reach them? When is the best time? If you’re dealing with a couple, should both parties be copied on every communication or is one person the point person for decisions?

Some communications, like looking over options, may be best handled by email, while others may be easily solved with a quick text. In the end, it’s about what works best for the client.

According to a study from HubSpot earlier this year, 62% of consumers want communications via email, while 48% are open to phone communication (via voice or text). If you don’t have a live chat option on your website, that’s worth exploring – 42% of consumers said they want to engage that way.

3. Establish a contact

For the average boat buyer, the sheer number of people involved in the process – from salespeople to sales manager to service department to F&I – can be confusing. Establishing a point person for all communication makes it easier for the consumer to know who to talk to when they have a question, plus it makes it easier for you to make sure they aren’t receiving contradictory messages.

4. Be clear and professional

Make sure your communication with customers is easy to understand. Avoid using jargon that they may not know. (This is one of the reasons to have only one person handling that communication.) When you start throwing out terms like galley, stern or gunwales, a customer might not understand but might be reluctant to admit that. That can lead to uniformed decisions and an unhappy client down the road.

Also be careful to stay professional. Especially when sending a text or quick email, it’s easy to make grammatical errors or typos. Any communication with the client should be clean and clear.

5. Silence isn’t golden

Just because you don’t hear from a client, doesn’t mean all is well. According to research by Salesforce, less than 25% of customers complain to a company when they are having a problem.

Most people never say anything to the company – but they will say something to their friends, relatives and social media networks. That’s lost repeat and referral business that can could be saved by addressing concerns. That’s why it’s important to be proactive in communicating and tracking problems.

6. Don’t forget to follow up

Even after the sale or service is over, don’t forget to check in. Make sure any last set of problems are taken care of and there are no lingering issues that could torpedo the customer’s satisfaction. Stress the importance of filling out CSI surveys and your goal of total customer satisfaction. Sixty-eight percent of consumers say it increases their perception of a company when it reaches out to them about customer service issues before they have a problem, so be proactive. 

Jonathan Sweet is the director of the Boating Industry Top 100 program and former editor-in-chief of Boating Industry magazine. He can be reached at or 763-383-4419. Follow him on Twitter at @JonathanWSweet.

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