Secure client portals are designed to be communication hubs, but with a large number of communication mediums available, one needs to carefully design one’s communication strategy with clients in order to hit just the right notes. From the right tone, through the right frequency and the right content, how you communicate will impact cusotmer satisfaction and your own productivity. In this article we start start with a refresher of the ground rule and then analyse different types of communication “touch-points”, suggesting best practice and trade-offs.
The savoir vivre of electronic communication
In today’s digital age, customer electronic communication occupies an integral part of our lives. From online shopping to resolving customer service issues, electronic communication channels such as email, live chat, and social media platforms have transformed the way businesses interact with their customers. However, in this virtual landscape, it is crucial to adhere to the principles of savoir vivre, a term rooted in good manners and etiquette. This essay explores the essential elements of savoir vivre in customer electronic communication and how they contribute to building positive customer relationships.
- Respectful and Courteous Language: When communicating electronically, it is vital to maintain a respectful and courteous tone. While it may be tempting to use informal language or shortcuts, treating customers with politeness is crucial. Using appropriate salutations, such as “Dear” or “Hello,” followed by the customer’s name, helps establish a personal connection. Additionally, responding promptly to customer inquiries demonstrates attentiveness and respect for their time.
- Clarity and Conciseness: In electronic communication, clarity is paramount. Customers often seek information or assistance, and it is essential to provide concise and easily understandable responses. Avoiding jargon, acronyms, or technical terms that customers may not be familiar with ensures effective communication. Breaking down complex ideas into simple, digestible points helps customers grasp the information easily, leading to a better customer experience.
- Empathy and Active Listening: Customers often reach out for support or assistance, and it is crucial to display empathy and active listening skills. Empathizing with the customer’s situation and showing understanding can help establish rapport and build trust. Acknowledging their concerns and providing personalized solutions demonstrates a commitment to their satisfaction. Moreover, active listening involves fully understanding the customer’s issue before responding, preventing misunderstandings and facilitating effective problem-solving.
- Professionalism and Brand Representation: Electronic communication is a direct reflection of a company’s professionalism and brand image. Adopting a professional tone and adhering to brand guidelines and values ensures consistency across all customer touchpoints. Using company-specific signatures or taglines helps reinforce the brand’s identity and leaves a lasting impression on customers. By maintaining a professional demeanor, companies can enhance their reputation and foster a sense of reliability and trustworthiness.
- Confidentiality and Data Protection: In an era marked by data breaches and privacy concerns, it is imperative to prioritize confidentiality and data protection in customer electronic communication. Companies should adhere to legal and ethical guidelines regarding the storage and handling of customer data. Respecting customers’ privacy by securing their personal information and obtaining consent for data usage builds confidence and enhances the customer experience. Informing customers about data protection measures demonstrates transparency and cultivates trust in the digital realm.
- Conflict Resolution and Problem-Solving: Electronic communication channels often become arenas for conflict resolution and problem-solving. When faced with customer complaints or negative feedback, it is essential to remain calm, composed, and focused on resolving the issue. Acknowledging the problem, offering sincere apologies when necessary, and providing prompt solutions or alternatives showcases commitment to customer satisfaction. Demonstrating a proactive approach and going the extra mile to resolve issues can turn dissatisfied customers into loyal brand advocates.
- Follow-Up and Feedback: To maintain a customer-centric approach, it is crucial to follow up on customer interactions and seek feedback. Sending post-interaction surveys or personalized follow-up emails shows appreciation for their engagement and demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement. Encouraging customers to provide feedback helps identify areas for enhancement and allows companies to refine their processes, ultimately improving the overall customer experience.
Conclusion: Savoir vivre in customer electronic communication encompasses a range of essential elements that contribute to building positive relationships with customers. By adopting respectful and courteous language, ensuring clarity and conciseness
2. Pick the right channel for the right message
Communicating with new customers
So you have got a lead! Yey! Have you tracked how many leads translate into paying clients? Or, perhaps, other way around: how many leads you lose during the pitching process? Let me say it upfront: if you lose, it’s not beacuse of the price. Or not exclusively because of the price, unless you tend to quote silly numbers. Most importantly, new customer inquiries require quick and professional response, they expect a conversation that promises to be interesting, engaging and beneficial to both sides. Here is a typical, high-touch sales process diagram:
Here are a few common scenarios and best practice:
Request for proposal
- A client fills out a questionnaire, leaves a bot a message, or emails a email@example.com email address asking for a quote, demo or further information.
- Always reply from a personal inbox.
- If you send an automated reply such as “thank you for your message, we will be in touch soon” make sure that ‘reply-to’ address is a physical inbox.
Quote and Proposal
- The email will be sent by your Proposal software provider. Make sure you control the ‘from’ address (set it so something like: firstname.lastname@example.org, where ‘mybrand’ is your domain name)
MyDocSafe insight: we let you control that address, one per account. Most popular choices are email@example.com
- Reply-to email must not be ‘no-reply’ but a real inbox.
MyDocSafe insight: our default reply-to email is the email address of the sender. This way an email sent as a reply to a Proposal invitation will be routed to your regular business inbox
Registration or onboarding workflow
- Make sure you use the same provider for the Quote and Registration workflows. Otherwise it will be particularly challenging to ensure consistent brand representation and tone of voice.The registration process can be lengthy especially for accountants, lawyers, wealth managers and other regulated professions, where KYC/ AML checks are obligatory and clients must provide lots of detailed personal or business information that may not be readily available.
- Make sure you create a well thought out template of the registration process and offer is as part of the portal experience.
MyDocSafe insight: Once you create a required registration workflow and decide what order of the steps you want, decide if clients should follow those steps in a rigid order or perhaps not. If the process has more than half a dozen steps, consider letting the client decide on the order.
In a nutshell, here is how MyDocSafe can help you streamline a high-touch sales process communication:
Communicating with existing customers
Now that you have won a new deal, you can work on customer life time value. Dealing appropriately with existing customers is the holy grail of customer retention. It is therefore critical to respect your client’s time and design your communication appropriately: the right frequency, tone of voice and medium. As a general rule, it is useful to create a number of canned templates with standard language that can be pulled quickly when emailing clients. Here are a few popular scenarios and best practice:
Routine document signature requests
- If you use unbranded portal services, the email is likely to come from a generic email address that may end up in spam. That is why branding your electronic signature account is so important
MyDocSafe insight: with MyDocSafe you have control over the branding and text inside the signature request email
Routine data requests
- Sending a generic and unencrypted message may be sufficient as long as the requests do not contain personal or confidential information. This way the client can action the request straight away instead of having to login first just to fetch the message.
MyDocSafe insight: It helps to add “magic links” to your email, such as a secure document upload link or a link to the client portal login page or a questionnaire. This tactic will minimise the number of clicks you require from your client.
Private and confidential correspondence
- It is important to understand who has access to ‘sent items’ if you send messages from a client portal platform. If you want to ensure no one else is privy to the contents, you should either send a regular email or use an encrypted messaging capability
MyDocSafe insight: we offer an encrypted messaging add-on which can be easily installed in your Office365 infrastructure and be used to trigger messages straight from your Outlook, Excel or Word. A sent message will be stored in your Outlook but will not contain the body of the email (just the notification sent to the client). The client will receive a notification asking them to login to MyDocSafe to read the message. For super secret communication, use our end-to-end encrypted messages which would not even pass by MyDocSafe servers, but would be encrypted locally on the sender’s side and decrypted locally on the recipient’s side. MyDocSafe would only ensure appropriate encryption and decryption keys are used. To enable this service each recipient needs a MyDocSafe licence and the Office365 plugin.
Office announcements (bulk emails)
- Some announcements require a broadcast. Major deadlines, office closure, publishing of a new confidential report etc, may warrant a traditional email broadcast. However, using an email marketing platform for that task is a bit of an overkill, because you may not want to add ‘unsubscribe’ links to those emails. After all, you are communicating with your existing clients, not prospects.
MyDocSafe insight: use ‘bulk messages’ fatures in portal groups. Each email will be sent to all client users in the group. This is a premium feature that requires a “comunication add-on”.
Office announcements (post-it notes)
- Some announcements should not even be sent by email as they may look as spam. In that situation consider using ‘electronic post-it notes’ that appear inside a client portal and are visible only after your client logs into his or her account.
MyDocSafe insight: use ‘announcements’ for post-it notes. Publish them in all client portals at once (if they are generic) or use different ones in each portal.
- Reminders are automated messages that you want to send out when a certain action needs completing with a specified amount of time (for example, someone needs to sign a document within a few days, or needs to complete a worklfow etc). Reminders are rarely personal – how would you feel when John sends you a personal message asking you to sign that contract which is followed by 5 more messages from John asking you why you haven’t done that yet…That is why its best if reminders are impersonal and come from a non-personal email address
MyDocSafe insight: we offer reminders for the following situations: request for electronic signatures, request to fill out a questionnaire, request to accept an invitation to a portal
- A notification is a message that tells you about something happening, for example “someone completed a task” or “a workflow changed its status”. These are usually short and impersonal and should come from a non-personal email address. There is a fine balance between notifications being useful and becoming spam. That is why they should be used with caution. Only the most time sensitive ones should be delivered by email. Remaining ones should be placed in a notifications dashboard for easy access, filtering and archiving.
MyDocSafe insight: we offer automated email notifications for the following situations:
- Someone signed a document,
- Someone fille out a questionnaire,
- Workflow changed its status
- A client uploaded a document to a portal
- Using WhatsApp to communicate with clients is increasingly popular. However, it is also potentially problematic as the chat does not ‘live’ with the client record and cannot be easily referenced.
MyDocSafe insight: avoid using chat unless there is no other way – use build-in chat features offered by your portal provider. We offer chat – it is encrypted and enabled by default in all portals (each portal gets a separate channel accessible to all portal users).
- Have you spoken to your client recently? Phone or face-to-face client interations are the most expensive, require most pre-work and generate most amin. They also deliver most impact. Some industries record all phone calls and store them inside the client CRM for regulatory purposes. Most others do not have that requirement, making data capture or transcribing phone conversations an after throught.
MyDocSafe insight: we offer phone data capture/transcription and storage services to our enterprise clients only. Please inquire to learn more.
In a nutshell here is how MyDocSafe can help you automate high volume or routine communication tasks with existing clients:
Keeping brand consistency when communicating with clients is increasingly complex. Using a single client portal platform for all client communication requirements is the ultimate goal which may not suit all. The benefits are clear: storage in a single place, consisent tone of voice and a single visual template for all emails. The downside of ‘single point of truth’ is expense: getting voice or secure chat all integrated with a client portal requires an investment. Luckily, not everyone needs such level of integration. In summary, we recommend the following checklist:
- Get the branding right – from names of the inboxes through logos to email design. Try to use as few providers as possible to ensure brand uniformity.
- Set up message templates – ensure everone in your offices uses standard language for routine messages.
- Pick the right method for the right occassion – based on how you pereceive urgency, confidentiality and content.
But most importantly, map out your sales and process delivery process. Communication strategy is just a part of it.