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The most profitable businesses are fantastic communicators. This works all the way down from the likes of Apple to the local plumber who's always got a six month waiting list. But no business is a perfect communicator and many make serious mistakes which are losing them hundreds or thousands of pounds a day in lost sales.
Here is a list of the communication errors I encounter most often. I've made some of these myself, and may still make them in the future. We're all learning. Which of these communication mistakes is your business making?
If it's urgent, talk to someone. Texts, emails, tweets and even letters have their place but nothing beats the immediacy of a conversation - in person or on the phone. It also adds the human factor that's missing from other forms of communication, and this can make all the difference to a customer.
You might think replying to an email within three days is acceptable but perhaps your customer expects a response within 24 hours? I recently sent an email enquiry about an event happening a few days ahead. The automated reply told me I could expect a response within ten working days. This didn't leave me with a good impression of the organisation I contacted.
On the other hand, they did at least set my expectations. Develop a pattern of working with customers so they know how long you take to respond and, where appropriate, set and then meet (or better, beat) expectations.
This is a real profit-killer. I've lost track of the number of firms who've told me how they've wasted thousands on marketing that didn't work. They had a product that people wanted but they failed to get the message out in the right way. It can be hard to pin down which advertising methods will work, but if you're trying something new, begin with a small scale trial. Look carefully at the material you're putting out - will your message appeal to the reader? Don't sell features, sell benefits. Road test your advertising by getting opinions from people outside your business.
This might be the age of T-shirts in the office and cosy Twitter chats with someone from the other side of the world, but it still pays to start a commercial relationship with a little formality. This might involve calling customers by their surname, at least to begin with, and opening emails with a greeting other than 'Hi'. Even 'Hi' is better than no greeting, a style that some consider acceptable, despite the annoyance it can create. Irritate your customers at your peril.
I guarantee that every one of your customers, current and future, is a person. Every one of them has feelings. Forget this and you may as well give up.
Apple is great at communicating because they make their customers feel cool and valued. The popular plumber is a great communicator because he or she exudes trust and makes customers feel valued. What does your business make customers feel?