How to spark a conversation with your customers

Whether you’re new to your business, or have been going for a while, it can be difficult to know how to spark a conversation with your customers…and conversation is the skill you need for networking and building relationships.

Conversations you have with customers will be slightly different from those you have with your family and friends but are vital to build valuable relationships and build that all-important rapport.

Starting a conversation

This is sometimes the hardest part. But a good way to start is to ask for information. It’s the most effective and natural way to start building that rapport. Ask them about themselves or ask about their business.

  • Do they have a family? If they have their own business, how do they work that around their family?
  • How did they get started?
  • What made them choose their particular business?
  • What is their ‘why’ – why do they do what they do?
  • How are they hoping their business will evolve in the future?
  • What problems do they encounter in their line of work?
  • What inspires them?

These are just a few things you could ask, but you get the picture!

Introduce yourself

Probably the most obvious way to start a conversation is to introduce yourself. But be brief! No one wants to hear someone rambling on about themselves. Tell them a little bit about yourself and what you do, then you can go on to the other conversation starters I mentioned above.

Pay them a compliment

The most important thing about this one is to be genuine – if you can’t think of anything, don’t use this one as it is easy to see through someone who isn’t genuine!

If you love something that they do, or something they’ve made, or have seen a social media post that you particularly like – tell them. And say why you love it.

Comment on something you have in common

This could be anything, from something that’s happening in the world that they’ve commented about, the weather, an event that’s happening, or a situation that you’ve both experienced. Usually, you can pick up on something like this from social media posts.

Offer help

Sometimes conversations can be started because you find yourself in a position to be able to help someone. Offering your assistance can help you earn trust and show you as a likeable person, especially if the concern or help you offer is genuine. As in everything when meeting and talking to new people, the key word here is ‘genuine.’ Don’t offer to help if it will be difficult for you to manage or you don’t really have the time, as this can cause more damage than good.

Ask for help yourself

Asking someone for their advice or help is a highly effective conversation starter. It works well because it makes the other person feel like they’re being helpful and useful. You could always offer them help in return, which will really help build a relationship. We often find we do this without thinking, it’s a natural human behaviour to ask for advice or help.

Talk about a shared experience  

Shared experiences are great to talk about. It might be that you are a crafter or artist and have attended the same market or gallery to show your products. It could be that you attended the same conference, or even went to see the same concert. It doesn’t have to be work-related.

This kind of conversation is great, as you’ve both done the same thing, so conversation flows more easily.

Ask for an opinion

I see people doing this a lot in social media networking groups. You may have a new product or service and would like an opinion on it. It’s a great way to start conversations. People naturally like to help, so if you post your question on social media, you will get plenty of answers…some of those you will be able to message to find out more about what they think.

Show genuine interest

Primarily, and I know I’ve said this several times, be genuinely interested in what people have to say. Actively listen to them, which is focusing completely on the person you’re talking to. Repeat back what they say, so you confirm your understanding.

If you’re talking to someone face to face, for example at a networking event, respect their personal space and don’t get too close. Make eye contact, and smile! But be aware that not everyone likes eye contact, so it could make them uncomfortable. If it’s obvious that they are not interested in talking to you, move on and don’t get offended – you can’t please everyone!

Conclusion

I’m sure that you can come up with loads of ways to strike up a conversation with customers or new contacts…if you have any other suggestions, please put them in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Top tips for effective communication with your customers

Communication is key to nurturing and keeping long-lasting relationships with your customers.

For your communication to really work well, you need to know everything about your products or services better than anyone else. Skills such as patience and active listening can make a huge difference, as well as having a very attentive mindset. It’s important to ensure that you respond to all messages, comments on social media, phone calls, live chat, and emails promptly, as a delayed response could make them turn to your competitors.

Why is communication important?

In today’s online world, with so much competition for every single business out there, no matter how big or small, the way you communicate with your customers can make or break your brand.

There are lots of ways you can communicate with your customers, and factors such as 24/7 availability and multiple channels that they can contact you on, are important for customer satisfaction.

You need to be able to help them in real time, give them any updates to your business or products/services, market new products to them and keep them happy.

The four most popular ways to communicate are:

By phone – this is the best way to resolve any issues with your customers that can’t be solve in other ways. Sometimes, when you try to email or message an unhappy customer, the feeling behind your message gets lost and it can come over as abrupt. So, phone is better as nothing is more reassuring than to hear a real human voice, who is calm and can explain any issues. Customers will like that you’ve taken the time to speak to them – it helps to make them feel like they are valued.

By email – This is good for giving information, for example, newsletters. Email is cost-effective and you have an email thread to keep track of the conversation. I speak to my clients by phone once a month to talk about how things are going – and always follow up with email to confirm our conversation and anything we’ve agreed.

Live Chat – you can put live chat on your website, but for me most live chat comes via messenger, where I can talk to my clients in real time. Sometimes, when doing this, it becomes obvious that you need to have a chat by phone, and other times you will find that you can confirm a date or delivery etc this way.

Social Media – social media is great for sharing regular updates with your customers, talking about new products or services, educating them about something you do or your business, and entertaining or inspiring them with quotes or funny stories/memes. Social media is also brilliant for engaging with your customers in a way you can’t do via other communication channels.

Tips to improve communication with your customers

Here are a few tips to help improve the experience your customers have with your business.

The right message

Conveying the right messages or information is crucial for any business. It is your responsibility to ensure that any information about your business, be it around shipping, info on a particular product and its use, turnaround times, pricing etc needs to be accurate, so that you can set realistic expectations from the start.

If you have a website, shop, and social media channels, make sure that the information you give is consistent across the board, as this leads to a positive customer experience with your brand and business. Any information that differs can cause confusion and ultimately, could lose you customers.

Be proactive in your communication

Inevitably, there will be times when a customer is not happy with the service you offer. They might hassle you to get their problem solved and might keep hassling you if it’s taking longer than they expected.

The best way to solve this, and to avoid it, is to be proactive with your communication. Let them know how things are going every step of the way.

Let me give you an example. I used to work for a global insurance company, and at one time was in their call centre. I worked solely on complaints, which could be quite difficult at times. I found the best way to make the customer experience a good one – even though I was dealing with a complaint – was to be transparent, open, and honest, and above all, keep them informed. When a complaint was first made, I always apologised and said that I would investigate it and get back to them. Now, people hear this all the time and often don’t get a call back – this is where I made a difference. I gave them a time and date that I would ring them back…and I made sure I rang them, even if I didn’t yet have an answer. I’d ring and tell them that I didn’t yet know the answer but was hoping to find out by ‘whatever date.’ I’d then agree another date and time when I would ring them to update or give them an answer. Nine times out of ten, customers were happy with this because I’d still taken the time to ring them in person.

This is what I mean by managing a customer’s expectations. That call makes all the difference. The customer knows that you care and that you are doing your best to sort things out for them. They also know that you will keep your promise to ring and update them.

Active listening    

Active listening is about paying attention to what your customers are saying to you. Listen to everything they have to say and repeat back to them anything that is important to remember or know. This proves that you are listening and ensures that you have understood correctly.

Keep a pen and paper handy in case you have to make notes and don’t interrupt them. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat something or clarify something, so you fully understand. You don’t want to miss any vital information or details that are important to them.

Whilst you are speaking to your customer, get rid of any other distractions – turn off anything that is likely to interrupt you. If you are speaking on a landline, switch off your mobile, and if you are on your mobile, switch off your landline or put it on answer phone. If possible, take the call in another room. Don’t have any background noise on such as music or TV.

Earlier I said to avoid interrupting your customer. However, there are times when you may have to – for example, if the line is bad and you can’t hear them properly, or you may have to ask them to repeat something if there is a language barrier.

Know your product or services  

This sounds obvious, but your customers will ask you all sorts of things about your products or services, and you need to be prepared.

Know everything inside-out, so you can answer questions with confidence. If there is something you’re not sure about, or something you’d not thought about, be honest and say that you don’t have enough information about it but will find out and get back to them…and make sure you get back to them in a timely manner! Don’t forget!

Try to avoid words such as “I think’’, “it might be, or it could be,” or “maybe it’s xxx.” This doesn’t instil confidence and makes you sound confused or that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Take your time

It’s normal to feel some frustration when a call is taking a long time, or you are speaking to the twentieth customer that morning. However, for your customer, it is the first time they have spoken to you that day, so they deserve the same polite, helpful treatment that your first customer received.

Take your time to understand queries and give as much information to help solve any queries or complaints.

The call you receive may not be negative – it might be someone phoning to say, ‘thank you,’ or to give a compliment!

Give your customers what they want

All customers are different and have different needs and wants. Whilst one customer will be happy with an email or messenger response, you will have those that prefer to speak to you directly.

If a customer is asking you lots of questions, ask them what they would prefer. Ask questions such as “What is the best way to contact you?” or “Are you happy for me to email or message you, or would you prefer a call?”

In my experience with my business, I get different requests, and some prefer both. I find it easier to explain something complicated over the phone, and then follow up in email. Part of my business is coaching, so that is always face to face via Zoom or video call, but even then, I’ve had someone say they prefer phone and not face to face. So, each customer is different and it’s up to you to find out what they like best and work to that.

Keep a record of what your customers have bought from you before, be it a product or a service, so you have something you can talk about and show them that you remember them. Call them by name, so that it is more personal. And, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and treat them how you’d like to be treated.

Encourage your customer to ask questions

Communication is a two-way process, so encourage your customers to ask you questions. When they ask a question, it gives you the perfect opportunity to, not only answer but to give them information about the various benefits or features of your product/service.

At the end of any conversation, whether by phone, email, or messenger, always ask your customer if they have any questions.

Encouraging questions can lead to more interest in other products or services and could lead to more sales.

Conclusion

Communicating effectively with your customers breeds loyalty. When your customers know that they can contact you easily and that you genuinely care about them, this builds trust. Trust in you and trust in your brand.

Happy customers will refer you to their friends and family and they are the best form of marketing you can have. Communicating them using the channel they prefer helps build that trust and loyalty – in no time at all, you’ll have your own army of marketers, promoting your business for you!

If you need any help with customer communication or would like help with your marketing, please get in touch. I offer a free 30-minute consultation.

Email me at cindymobey@outlook.com or call me 0033 (0) 545 31 13 86.