Your writing team slaves over your customer communications. It’s too bad nobody’s reading them. Sounds harsh, but it may be more true than you think. Despite hours, days, weeks of carefully crafting content, if your language and tone don’t resonate with your customers, all your hard work may be getting ignored.
Here are three of the top pitfalls, and what you can do to help ensure your customer communications get the attention and action they need.
Your subject lines lack the “why to care”
Your customers are deluged with emails every day, so you’ve got a lot of competition for their attention. An email with a generic, product-oriented subject line often gets ignored because people triage what looks important or relevant, and this doesn’t. There’s no urgency, no compelling win to entice them. They might be missing out on something important, but they may never know, or find out too late.
While it’s regrettable for your marketing efforts, it could increase your risk and expense for managing existing customers. Suppose you need customers to respond to an important call to action. If you don’t create any urgency in the subject line, they may skip that email, which could set off a costly ripple effect. For example, you may need to send multiple follow-ups until you get a response. Or, you might proceed with a change and when customers find out about it, they feel caught unaware, and flood your call center with questions and complaints.
Infuse a compelling emotion or action into the subject line. Keep it brief, yet clearly state how the message is relevant or useful to the customer. Write the subject line after you’ve finalized the email message, so it’s easier to capture the key takeaway in a few words.
TIP: Improve the read/response rate for printed letters by adding a subject line (or headline) above the salutation. Customers can instantly understand the purpose of the letter and whether they need to do anything.
You talk like a robot
Too often, companies think in terms of products, functions, and policies – and that comes out in the way they communicate to customers. In an attempt to sound like a “professional” or voice of authority, the language tends to be stiff and formal, laced with technical or industry jargon. And the tone? Well, let’s just say this is NOT someone you’d want to hang out with, unless you enjoy a good, condescending scolding now and then.
If this sounds familiar, your customers may do business with you because it serves practical needs, but not because they LIKE it. And that means the risk of attrition is high. Eventually they will find a company that meets the same needs, yet talks to them in ways that make them feel understood and valued. Even if your competitor’s prices are higher, research shows 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience.
- THE FIX:
Think about when you’re a customer – what makes a good experience stand out for you? What gets your attention and makes you take action? What helps you feel like you’re talking with a trusted friend or advisor?
Translate those qualities into every communication with simple, approachable language and a friendly, conversational tone. Be sure to read it aloud to make sure it sounds natural and free of awkward wording.
You focus on you, not them
Look at one of your typical customer communications and count how many sentences begin with “we.” Or that open by talking about products, services, or features – and maybe later mention how customers benefit. It’s understandable you want to explain how great your offerings are, and your customers do care about that for meeting specific needs. But that’s not their bottom line.
For most customers, your tactical excellence is important, but it’s secondary. What’s top of mind is, “what’s in it for me?” People want the quick takeaway of how your offerings improve their quality of life. Easier, faster, better, cheaper. Whatever the benefits, they want to know upfront – because those qualities inspire the emotional experience they’re looking for. And that emotion tends to drive purchase decisions.
When you focus primarily on your business, or bury the benefits in logistical details, a common emotional response is distrust or indifference. And those are the last things you want customers to feel.
- THE FIX:
Focus on the first thing you want customers to feel when they hear from you. Trust? Confidence? Valued? Imagine your communication through their eyes. Focus on what their needs, concerns and questions might be, so you can proactively address them. Are you telling people about offerings that help them save time, reduce costs, increase efficiency? Make those benefits stand out so customers immediately identify with the wins, on both an emotional and practical level.
Watch your wording. First tell people how they’ll benefit, and then explain how you do it. Not the other way around. Switching the order may not seem like a big deal (it’s still in the sentence, right?). But remember the old saying, “features, tell; benefits sell.” So lead with the win.
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If your organization falls into any of these traps, don’t worry, it’s fixable. Feeling challenged trying to get your teams to make the shift? An outside perspective can make a big difference. Take advantage of our customer communications workshop series on Building Stronger Relationships with Customer-Centric Communications. You and your team can improve your own high impact content with fun, hands-on sessions you can mix-&-match to meet your specific needs.
[Icon source: Windows/public domain]