Customer communications is one of the cornerstones of any successful business. There are many different communication channels, and learning how to effectively communicate with clients is a bit of an art form. Understanding customer communications best practices can lead to more bookings, fewer missed appointments and happier clients, and give your business a polished and professional feel.
What is the importance of effective communication with pet parents?
Effective customer communications convey information and answer questions, but they can also provide reassurance, making customers feel informed and confident about you and your business. Leaving their precious fur babies in someone else’s hands can be difficult for some pet parents, and knowing what to expect can make customers comfortable about your level of professionalism and excellent service.
What are the best customer communication channels to use?
Decades ago, small businesses primarily communicated with customers in just a few different ways: in person, on the phone or by letter. Today, you can take advantage of many different communication channels when contacting customers. It’s helpful to use a variety of channels as some people are more likely to read and respond to a text versus an email, or want to reach out via a social media page rather than call on the phone. Here are the most common ways to communicate with customers:
Text: How to communicate with clients via text
Contacting customers has never been easier thanks to SMS—that stands for short message service, otherwise known as texting. Texting is quick, easy and effective. Text messages have an 85% open rate, compared to emails, which have only a 20% open rate. Additionally, most people respond to text messages within 90 seconds.
Text messages might feel casual, but younger customers have embraced texting as one of the fastest and most convenient communication tools. This includes the coveted millennial generation, which now is the largest segment of pet owners (33%). Millennials love texting as it allows them to easily scroll back and see a record of the past communications with, gives them flexibility to read and respond at their convenience, and provides time so they can decide exactly what they want to say or do.
Some CRM (customer relationship management) systems include a customer texting service, which allows you to easily send and track your client texting communications. For instance, PetExec offers an unlimited texting package, which includes capabilities for:
- Two-way text messaging (customers can reply)
- Image texting (attach a picture to your text)
- Automated text message appointment reminders
- Ability to resend any SMS message
Email: How to communicate with clients via email?
Email is a great method for sending many types of communications, whether to send appointment reminders, vaccination notices, changes in business hours, email marketing or even to acknowledge a pet’s birthday.
The key to effective email communications is ensuring they get read rather than deleted. When creating email communications, be sure to write a strong subject line, personalize your messages with the client and pets’ names, keep emails brief and to the point, and use clear and concise language. Adding a photo is a great visual way to draw the customer into the message. Always remember to also proofread your emails to avoid misspellings and clumsy spacing that might look unprofessional Use strong calls to action.
Website: The face of your company
A website is virtually mandatory for most small businesses. Whether it’s viewed by prospective customers or long-time clients, your website is the face of your business, so it’s important that it looks modern and professional, and is easy to navigate. Your website is a place where customers can check your business hours, find your phone number and book appointments through the owner portal. The homepage of your website is the best place for updating important communications, such as changes in hours, new policies or holiday notices.
Social Media: How to communicate with clients on social media
Social media can be a powerful communication channel for small businesses. As is the case with texting, younger generations, including millennials, frequently use social media pages to reach out and ask questions. Your social media pages are also great places to communicate special announcements or changes in business hours, announce contests, and more.
To successfully use social media for business communication, post regularly on your pages and make sure your company’s information is always current, including your website, phone number, email address, and business hours. Monitor your pages daily (preferably several times a day) so you can respond to direct inquiries, whether they come through the platform’s messaging or as comments or questions on posts. Most people expect a quick response time—within 24 hours, or better yet, within a few hours.
Pet Parent Portals
A pet parent portal allows your customers to perform many tasks on their computer or mobile device. For instance, PetExec’s owner portal lets customers create and modify their own account, view and sign contracts and other agreements, book or request appointments, pay their invoice, and check in on their beloved pets on an integrated webcam.
Phone Calls: How to communicate with clients on the phone
Electronic communication has its benefits, but the phone remains an important communication technology touchpoint for people who prefer to interact in a more personal manner. Client interactions skills are as important on the phone as they are in person. Customers can hear your tone and sense whether you sound rushed or relaxed and ready to engage.
Signs, Posters and Bulletin Boards
Don’t underestimate the value of visual communication. Hang up flyers or signs near your check-in area to communication cancelation policies, vaccination rules, changes in business hours, upcoming events and more.
What are the different types of pet care customer communication?
Communication is an ongoing task. You might choose to use different methods of communicating with customers depending on what type information is being conveyed. For example, pre-visit onboarding might be fulfilled via email, pre-visit reminders might be sent via text, communication that happens at drop off or during the visit might be in person, and post-visit follow-up might happen over the phone or by email or text.
What information should I include in my client communications?
Anticipate your customers’ questions by always providing certain important information with every communication. For instance, texts should always include a link to your website so the customer can easily find answers to any additional questions they might have. For email communications, always include the web URL as well as your phone number, physical address and current business hours. You can also include social media links in email communications, as on your website.
Don’t forget to ask about customer communication preferences. Some people would rather have a text and opt out of email, while others might prefer a phone call reminder rather than an electronic one. You can avoid annoying your clients with too many messages by allowing them to customize them for their preferences.
How often should I communicate with pet parents?
How often you communicate with clients depends on many factors, including the purpose of the communication (for example, appointment reminders, information sharing, marketing messages, etc.) and the type of communication (in person, on the phone or electronic).
As a general rule, you don’t want to go overboard when it comes to email and text communications. People can easily become annoyed by too many messages, and choose to delete without reading them, or ask you not to send any more communications (unsubscribe).
Do your best to consolidate need-to-know information into as few email messages as possible, and limit reminders or other text communications. If you have unique follow-up questions for the customer, or if the customer has not responded to electronic messages, pick up the phone to connect with them rather than continue to send more emails and texts.
Best Practices for Effective Customer Communications
Communication is a two-way street. It’s just as important to listen to client questions and concerns as it is to convey important information. When customers feel heard and understood, it strengthens your business relationship. Follow these golden rules about the best way for businesses to communicate with customers:
In-person communications and on the phone
- Always make eye contact
- Use a warm and friendly tone
- Speak slowly and clearly
- Give the customer your undivided attention
- Ask if the customer has any questions
- Practice active listening (listen carefully and repeat back what the client said)
Electronic communications (website, email, texting, social media)
- Maintain consistent messaging across all platforms
- Include a link to your website, contact information and business hours
- Be responsive (answer the phone or return calls promptly, and respond to inquiries via text, email and social media within the same business day)