Businesses that don’t adapt to the online world, whether they’re brick & mortar shops or not, don’t stand much of a chance competing against it! The unfortunate truth is that whatever you do, there are hundreds of businesses out there trying to occupy the same space as you, so you’ve got to ask yourself what sets you apart, and what do you offer that your competitors don’t?
Your first and foremost concern should be setting up lines of communication to make things as easy as possible for your customers to get the information they need to make an informed purchase.
I’m assuming that you’ve already set up your social media channels, your website, and you have a business contact number. These are a great starting point! However, you want to be sure that your customers can contact you as easily as possible and get the best possible service you’re able to offer (often, a small business will be able to go above and beyond what a huge corporation can!) So, from my experience in the B2C and the B2B world, there are 3 channels to focus on when it comes to communication.
- A Voice Channel
A lot of people still prefer to get their information straight from the source so making it easy to call is vital.
- An Online Channel
Instant Messaging is becoming more and more popular amongst businesses so building this into your social medias & websites is a great way to add value to what you do.
- A Passive Channel
There’s a fantastic book by Marcus Sheridan called ‘They Ask, You Answer’ which is key to setting up passive channels of communication. By Passive Channels, I mean supplying ways of answering your customers questions before they’ve even asked them. YouTube Channels, Blog Posts, LinkedIn, and even TikToks are fantastic ways to offer these answers to your customers without them having to pick the phone.
Research done by Salesforce (Smith, n.d.) shows that 93% of customers prefer to call a business to get the information they need, and that goes up to 95% if you’re a B2B business.
In fact, having a landline number instead of a mobile number published for your business, can result in up to 67% more business enquiries. So, it’s important that we implement a solution that works for both you and your customer.
You may think that because of the ISDN switch off in 2025 (the BT Phone network will officially be switched off, meaning your standard landline will be no more!), that setting up phone lines for business use will become more complicated but surprisingly it’s the opposite. All phonelines will become internet based through VoIP networks (Voice over Internet Protocol), think Skype or calling over WhatsApp)
When setting up a phone system using VoIP, first think about what your business needs. When somebody calls your business, do you have different departments you might want to guide them towards, or do you just want a greeting message to assure your customers they’ve come to the right place? Ultimately, you never want to miss a call, and this is one of the real benefits of a VoIP based service.
You’ve also got to think about how many numbers you might need. For example, do you need 1 central number that can be routed to all your devices (mobile phone, desk phone, tablets, computers etc.) or do you need multiple numbers that go through to specific devices.
Another benefit of VoIP is that often call recording is included, and the call files take up a relatively small amount of storage so making sure your business adheres to GDPR rulings is easy. It also helps with monitoring and training purposes, enabling you to further develop your business & your team.
Having omni-channel support available for your customers is now a feature that a lot of people expect, so combining your phone lines with online support can be beneficial. 72% of customers use messaging apps to communicate with businesses, and that number has been steadily growing over the years.
The most effective of these apps is WhatsApp for business with over 2 billion people currently using WhatsApp. You can easily integrate this into your website & have those messages sent straight to your phone, tablet, or computer. There are other live-support channels too, like Facebook Messenger, Mobile Monkey, and LiveChat. Other services you might be looking into is having a Bot programmed to talk to your customers 24/7. This might sound like a win-win but be careful as personally, I wouldn’t recommend using one, as according to research from Microsoft, bots only tend to solve about 28% of customer issues and this can really frustrate your customers. A bot might be right for your business, but if you’re a business that has a few variables during the buying process, it may end up hindering customers rather than helping them.
Finally, the channel that is seeing it’s biggest rise in use, is Passive Channels. There are so many benefits to answering questions that customers haven’t even asked yet. You’ve probably started your business because you’re passionate about what you do and more importantly, you’re confident that you can help people in your line of work. Creating Blogs, YouTube videos, short guides on Facebook, snippets of info on Twitter, and even funny TikTok videos can engage with a huge range of audiences. This not only helps with your company’s legitimacy and trustworthiness but it’s also a fantastic source of natural marketing as well. Recommending where to start is difficult, but in my experience the most engaging content is video, so think about some of your most asked questions and grab a camera! There are tons of analytic tools baked into websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to use to really hone your content and keep making it better. Put yourself out there and see what happens.
Eliminating obstacles for your customers is key, and making your customers journey as easy as possible will really help set you apart from other businesses in your field. By following the above 3 steps your customers will be able to contact you through various channels and get the expert advice that they require.
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