Communication is king, and that’s even truer for small businesses compared to larger enterprises. After all, if your customers can’t reach you easily – and if they can’t call to make an order when they need to! – they might decide to go with a competitor or abandon your brand entirely.
To cultivate long-term, high-quality relationships with your target audience members, you must understand and meet their communication preferences. These preferences can impact how they rate your customer service, how likely they are to come to you with a problem, etc.
But just what are those communication preferences? And how can you adapt to them if you have already set up customer support service infrastructure? Let’s answer both of these questions in detail.
Most Customers Want Both Text and Voice Options
Firstly, most customers, regardless of industry, want the option between text and voice communications. This isn’t surprising, considering how often people use their phones for texting. Some studies indicate that 97% of smartphone users send at least one text message per day.
That means your customers’ phones are always on hand and ready to receive SMS messages from your business. You can use SMS messaging to send customers invoices, important updates about the status of orders, special deals, and so on. However, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that customers will only communicate via text.
Even today, many people feel more comfortable interacting with business owners or organization representatives if they can hear their voices. Indeed, many customers will want to call your business or receive calls from you, particularly if you operate a small medical practice or other service-based organization.
It’s much more personable and friendly to receive a call from a small business than it is to receive a text, at least in the eyes of many modern consumers. To that end, your business should offer text and voice communication options to all its customers.
You can default SMS texts if you like. It is faster for your customer service team, and most people will likely be fine receiving communications from your brand in this way. But always have the option for voice calls available just in case, especially when you need to escalate a customer service complaint or another issue.
Consumer Preferences Are Contingent on Business Type
Even though most consumers do want the choice between text and voice options, exact preferences and communication wants are contingent on the business type.
In other words, the type of product that you offer will determine whether your customers prefer SMS or voice calls for communication. In general, service business customers prefer text messaging over voice calls, according to recent surveys. So if your business is primarily service-based, consider opting for SMS messages while leaving the option for voice calls open should it become necessary.
The trend continues for small restaurants and retail businesses. Customers of these establishments prefer text communications over voice calls by a factor of 2 to 1 (though there is some variability).
Texting is still the go-to, preferred communication choice for most customers of businesses in the financial, health, and wellness sectors. That said, the difference between a preference for texting or voice calls has started to diminish, indicating that more customers, as noted above, want the comfort and personalization of a voice call compared to a text message.
Bottom line: most customers do prefer text messaging, especially when it comes to special offers, appointment reminders, or alerts that they need to pick up their products. But having voice calls available is important for maintaining their satisfaction and giving you maximum communication flexibility.
Convenience Is Most Important
The last big communication preference trend to keep in mind is convenience. Convenience, above all else, is what consumers want when speaking to your business representatives.
Convenience, of course, can mean many different things to different people. But in the eyes of most consumers, it means:
Removing as many points of friction as possible. For example, make it easy for customers to receive SMS messages from you, not overly complicated.
Focusing on the core message and not inundating customers with excess text or voice calls.
Making it easy for consumers to call or text you back if they have to respond to you.
It doesn’t matter whether you send out more SMS texts or voice calls to your customers. You need to make sure the customer service experience is convenient, streamlined, and customer-focused from start to finish. That’s the best way to ensure that your consumers walk away with a great impression of your brand.
How Your Business Can Adapt
Now that you know the top three communication preferences for consumers let’s look at how your brand can adapt in a few smart ways.
Implement SMS Marketing/Customer Service
Firstly, if you haven’t already, implement SMS texting in your marketing and customer service departments immediately. As noted above, most customers prefer SMS texting over voice calls, so you need to be ready to lean into this trend ASAP.
Fortunately, setting up SMS texting for marketing or customer communication purposes is fairly straightforward. Be sure to list a specific work phone number on your website and other marketing materials. For example, don’t send out advertising texts from your personal phone, as this can get unnecessarily complicated and lead to liability issues for consumer data.
Consider a 24/7 Call Service
Next, consider hiring a 24/7 phone call service for your business. Such a service is much cheaper than you might think, allowing you to accept customer calls or complaints even while your main team isn’t on the clock.
This is vital if you are trying to grow your business or run a service-based organization. For example, you may have a small medical practice that serves locals in your community. A 24/7 call service can take patient phone calls in the middle of the night when you are asleep, only escalating to a direct call to your personal phone if it’s an emergency. But no matter what, the customer feels like they were heard, and you never miss a potential patient request.
Offer Surveys for Direct Feedback
Lastly, you can always offer surveys directly to your consumers for feedback on your communication channels, how you advertise them, or what they would prefer. In fact, this may be the best way to tap the pulse of your target audience and make sure you communicate to them the way they want to. Once you get responses, categorize them on Google Docs for easy analyzing and reporting.
Identifying and matching the communication preferences of your consumers is vital if you want to cultivate an excellent customer base for years to come. Fortunately, there are many ways to adapt to your customers’ needs. Send out some surveys, tell your customer service team how they need to respond, and watch as your customers’ loyalty improves with time.