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Over the last several months, I’ve had the need to reach out to local businesses that perform a variety of home services. Some of the interactions were very pleasant while some were horrendous, making me question how this person’s company was still in business. One thing that became very apparent to me is that the style and method of communication by these business owners was more influential to me than their website, prices, customer reviews or just about any other piece of information you can gather from the company.

Response Time

Although I am an Internet junkie and my cell phone bill will easily show you I use much more data than phone minutes, there are certain types of businesses where people will naturally opt to call first like plumbers, taxi service, restaurants, etc. If your business type falls into this category, you must have the ability to pick up the phone every time, whether it be yourself, your internal staff or even an outside call answering service. If you don’t pick up the phone, it doesn’t matter how high your website ranks or how much you paid for that yellow page ad because most people will move down the list to your competitors.

Take a minute to think about and answer:

  • Do your customers prefer to call or email? Whatever their preference, are you set up to respond immediately?
  • What percent of phone calls do you currently answer?
  • What is your follow up time on emails or voicemails?

Communication Style

Last summer, I did a lot of research on local landscapers. As mentioned earlier, I am an Internet junkie which directly correlates to my lack of handyman skills. After contacting 10-15 different businesses, I was really amazed by the responses I received. While a landscaper’s communication style may not necessarily reflect the quality of work they perform, I was easily turned off by businesses who took a week to respond or gave us an uninformative, barely literate one line response. As a business owner, I’m sure it can be frustrating to spend a lot of time responding to inquiries with no guarantee of gaining business but it’s something you need to be prepared for and try to streamline as much as possible. Someone who takes the time to contact you and ask detailed questions is further along in the buying process and if you take the time to address their needs, you have a great shot at landing their business.

Take a minute to think about and answer:

  • Does your communication style match that of your target customer?
  • Does the communication and content on your website lead someone to want to contact you? How does your website site you apart from the other 10 competitors? (Hint: It’s not just a flashy design.)
  • If you receive commonly asked questions and don’t always have time to write detailed answers, do you have common answers that can be sent back?
  • If you offer high ticket items, does the detail and grammar of your response or website content, match the expectations of your customer?

There isn’t a guide for each business type that explains how you should communicate with your customers but take into account how they currently try to communicate with you and be honest with yourself on how well you respond both in timeliness and quality. If you’re not sure, just ask them. Write a short, 5 question survey about the pre-sales process and have your customers fill it out.

For a local business, the ringing phone or filled out contact form is a crucial piece to your sales funnel. Increase your sales, appointments, etc. by converting those people who are already contacting you, not just by getting more leads.