Earlier this year, we at Nextiva released our 2020 State of Business Communications Report, and the results pointed to a steep uptick in people working from home. We conducted the report in partnership with Poly, a global communications company, and AA-ISP, a community dedicated to advancing the profession of inside/digital sales. Collectively, we surveyed more than 1,000 business professionals from a variety of industries.
Among some of the most profound findings were just how many people are now working from home, and how people are changing the way they communicate at work. We found that more than 38% of companies have staff that remotely work from home, and that many companies are moving business communications to the cloud to help facilitate seamless interactions.
[Image Source: Nextiva]
For those workers hesitant to work remotely for fear that they may not be able to successfully connect with customers, I’m here to offer a few pieces of advice.
Here are five easy ways to connect with your customers while outside the office.
Simple phone calls serve as great vehicles to connect with your customers while working remotely. Whereas in the past, businesses relied on on-premise and PBX telephony providers, we’ve found that cloud-based tools like VoIP, office suites, and mobile are now far more popular, and for good reason.
Any company (from a solo operation to a multinational enterprise) can benefit from cloud-based phone systems for their links to mobile apps, secure networks, and advanced features. Because cloud-based phone systems are connected to the internet, they are far more secure and powerful than standard phone lines. What’s more, cloud-based phone systems are more cost effective than on-premise solutions, allowing users to save massively on their phone bills.
In our 2020 State of Business Communications Report, we found that 69% of businesses are now using internet-based voice service tools, including VoIP and Unified Communication compared with 50% of companies that use traditional telecommunications providers. Only 34% of respondents reported using on-premise systems or hardware.
Communicating with your customers via email is another way to stay connected while working remotely. In our report, we found that remote staff are more inclined to communicate with their superiors via email or phone, and the same can go for customers. Several survey respondents said they prefer email to even newer communication methods like project management tools.
Social media platforms can be excellent tools to communicate directly with customers. Immediate interaction is possible and often preferred, especially when answering questions from customers. Tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram can help businesses seem more approachable to customers, and can elevate the quality of customer service.
Another way to use social media in communicating with customers is by utilizing video. Here at Nextiva, when a customer reaches out with a request or comment, a member of our team will often record a short (5-10 second) video and post that video on social media, tagging the customer.
In the video, we will call out the customer by name and address his or or her comment directly. We’ve found that not only is this effective on a general communication level, but it also helps customers feel seen and heard, and will sometimes lead them to sharing videos to their wider networks, thereby increasing brand awareness.
The last thing a customer with a question wants to do is to call a company and be put on hold. That is where live chat comes in. Live chat is an incredibly productive function for companies of all sizes to utilize in answering quick questions from customers in real-time.
In our report, we surprisingly found that very few respondents use live chat and that many businesses will text customers three times more than they will chat with them. We see this as a tremendous opportunity for growth. The great thing about live chat is that team members can decline to engage if they are busy. If, though, the opportunity to chat presents itself and a team member has the time to respond, they can do so without much disruption to their day.
Just as we regularly text with friends and family, texting is quickly becoming a common (and preferred) way to communicate with customers, especially while working remotely. In our report, we found that 72% of companies use text messages to communicate with customers for reminders and updates. We think the same can be true for sending notes and follow-ups to customers.
Texting your customers gives them an immediate way to reach you, and feel supported with any questions they have.
Customer communication doesn’t need to falter when companies allow their employees to work from home. In fact, the opposite is true. By utilizing methods like calling, texting, social media messages, live chat, and email, customer communication can be just as robust regardless of the location of your team members.