Do we ever really know what our customers are thinking? If your answer is yes, my guess is you invest a tonne of money in ongoing market research – both online and offline to stay on top of changing customer behaviours, expectations and perceptions. Or, you have a dedicated contact centre with customer service representatives that speak directly with your customers every day.

For most businesses, staying connected with customers in meaningful ways represents a major challenge. Sure, you may have some broad evidence of some of the major customer pain points, but reaching an understanding of the bigger picture means creating channels and forums that give customers the flexibility to join conversations when and how it works for them.

Gone are the days (although some brands still do this) of relying solely on sending out generic messages to email lists. Customers want direct connection with your brand and there are a range of opportunities online where they have the flexibility to jump in (contribute dialogue) or listen (monitor community dialogue) when they want.

The following represents three simple ways to start having more conversations with your customers online. Please note: the list below is intended to complement (not replace) face-to-face interactions already happening in your business, e.g. via call centres, in-store or workshops, etc.

  1. Get social

Any good conversation involves both listening and expression, which is where social media gives your customers the opportunity to both share their views and monitor/respond to other customer feedback as it unfolds.

A multinational survey by Edelman Berland found that 70% of millennials feel responsible for offering their thoughts and perspectives to brands (based on the global average).

More and more customers are using social media to share and amplify their opinions and I’m not just talking about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The popularity of business review sites such as Yelp, Word of Mouth and True Local are also part of the broader content marketing picture.

Brands have the chance to nurture and build online social communities where customers feel they have a voice and a platform from which they can raise issues about products or services – and have that issue actioned and resolved online. When it’s done right, i.e. issues are resolved quickly; brands boost their credibility in front of not just one customer but their community of customers (prospective and existing).

  1. Optimise your website

Latest news and information, FAQs, how-to instructional videos, page rating functionality, live chat and feedback forms are just some of the options that help you kick-start positive conversations with your customers.

In short, customers want to find what they need quickly and easily or make contact with your business to ask a question directly. Your website is effectively an online business card for customers. Make sure the navigation is intuitive and its features all work!

A study found that a ten-second wait for a page to load can make 50% of consumers give up and leave. Customers immediately question the credibility of a business if its website (or social media presence) looks unappealing, out-of-date, doesn’t work or is hard to navigate – and will most likely take their business elsewhere.

  1. Conduct customer surveys

Make them short, easy to complete and most importantly, ensure you come back with a response – an initial thank you email followed by a summary of key results and ideally the actions you’re set to take to resolve any issues identified.

There are two main types of customer survey – periodic and transactional (this could be after an actual purchase or an interaction with your team). The latter may not apply to your business, but periodic surveys should work for everyone and provide valuable benchmarks for monitoring customer loyalty and ongoing feedback on products and services.

There are heaps of free online survey providers that make it incredibly easy to set up surveys plus analyse results, including Survey Monkey, which offers a free version to get you started. Once your survey is ready to go you can share the link via a number of ways such as a social media update, customer email, your website or even as part of a promotional campaign or competition.

Talk to Cuckoo’s digital gurus about making the most of your website and social media presence with a dedicated content marketing strategy that gives your customers a seamless online experience that engages, delights and brings measurable results to your business. Give us a call we love finding new ways to bring brands and customers together.

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