Consumers need businesses in order to purchase goods and services, a process that has and always will be the basis of society. But things are a little more complicated now than they were a century ago, and there’s high competition in the market. As a result, businesses must do more than just provide goods and services to gain customers – they must also create relationships. Regular consumer interactions is a big part of the process.

Statistics support the vast need for deeper connections between the business and the consumer. According to a Bain & Company study, 80 percent of companies believe they offer highly valuable customer service, but only 8 percent of customers agree that the same companies offer the same level of service.

Those statistics are a little frightening for businesses who believe they’re doing the best they can, but then find out otherwise. Oftentimes, high-value customer service is found in the small interactions companies have with their customers. These consumers don’t feel like there are open lines of communication and steady interactions between customer and commerce.

To reverse that problem, organizations must closely evaluate their communication platforms and make improvements when necessary. Here are some tools and strategies that will make the overall experience better.

1. Voice Broadcasting

Anytime you have an important alert, promotion, update, or notification to share, you can use voice broadcasting to get the message out. These broadcasts can be spread to employees, customers, voters, or any other constituents who can benefit from the communication. It’s very easy and cost effective, and it’s a great way to generate leads while providing value to the customer.

2. Social Media

Customer service is quickly turning to social as a primary platform for company and customer interactions. Social media allows you to be where your customers are, being present and available to answer common questions and concerns in the moment. According to Neilsen’s 2012 Social Media Report, about half of all consumers use social media to complain, ask questions, or leave reviews for a company.

The same research shows that about one-third of customers say they prefer social interactions over phone calls, emails, and other customer service means. It’s part of the shift towards the self-service that contemporary customers crave.

3. Live Chat

Though social is growing as a favorite customer service channel, live chat holds the position as the most preferred method of communication between consumers and businesses. Millennial buyers are quickly gaining control of the buying power as they grow into the role of middle-aged adults. They prefer the self-service element of live chat rather than going through extra steps to make phone calls or write emails.

Live chat interactions can also improve a customer’s propensity to make a purchase. A 2014 Website Magazine study revealed that customers who “use web-based [live chat] functionality… are more likely to buy and less likely to abandon their sessions.”

4. Email Analytics

Email marketing is a staple for most online businesses, but the practice is much more useful with follow up. Review the analytics of your email marketing to test performance and recognize what customers value most in your interactions. This information will be incredibly constructive for guiding your marketing path. It will show you which interactions are working successfully for your customers and where changes must be made.

Analytics reports usually come with the email marketing tools you use. If you use GetResponse, for example, it offers free analytics reports to show how your email marketing is performing. Other useful tools for this purpose include MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Zoho, SendinBlue, and Constant Contact.

5. Make Incoming Communication Easier

Outgoing forms of communication are very important for generating leads and ensuring customer satisfaction. Often, customers will make the first contact to resolve a problem or have questions answered, so there should be more emphasis put on the ability for customers to contact you.

Start by making your contact information visible. Dedicate a page on your website to contact information, and post your customer service number in the header or footer of your page so it’s there no matter where your customers go on your page. You can also provide live chat boxes and email forms that make communication simple.

The interactions you have with customers will define your company’s reputation. Offering quality customer service is the best way to have a lasting impression on customers and increase their satisfaction.

Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt, specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. Previously he was the co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, that was acquired in 2012.

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