The right way to communicate with customers
How do we communicate with our friends?
We know them because we've taken the time to get to know them, so we keep bringing all of our conversations back to them. We don't treat them as unequal; we treat them as peers. We ask. We listen. We always tell them we're here for them. Above all else, we're genuine with them.
So why don't we communicate that way with our customers?
I've worked in business communications for many years and we communicate with our customers in a way that is supposed to make them in awe of us: "Look at me! Look at what I can do! Have you got a minute? Good, because I want to spend more time than you can spare by talking about myself ... constantly. Don't think it's worth your time? You just don't understand my industry. Have a specific question? Here's a 100-page white paper. Go read the whole thing and figure it out yourself."
By constantly focusing on ourselves and our capabilities, and not making an attempt to understand our customers, we're being rude communicators. Our communications with our customers shouldn't focus solely on us because we'd never be like that with our friends. The way we communicate with our friends is transparent, honest, respectful and supportive. Don't our customers deserve just as much?
Don't talk down to your customer - talk up your customer. Treat your customer like the most important person to you. Lead your customer on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of your business, revealing all of the hidden detail that makes you the best in your industry. Encourage questions and feedback. Let the customer stop you in the middle of your conversation. Don't preach to your customer about your business - teach your customer about your business.
If you can't explain everything in a simple conversation, prepare other communication materials with your customer in mind - things like websites, frequently-asked questions, mobile apps and videos. Make it easy for your customers to find that information. Don't bury that information in a verbose white paper or surround it with pointless marketing and technical jargon.
A lasting, positive business relationship is a two-way relationship. Your customer needs your products and services to achieve something important. You need your customer's business to achieve something important. The only way you can both achieve something important is to work together. The only way to communicate with each other is in an open, transparent and friendly manner.
If your customers are gracious enough to give you some of their attention, make the most of it. Don't read your product catalog back to your customers - start a meaningful, friendly conversation instead.
This post originally appeared on The Good Idea Exchange, a blog about leadership and self-improvement.