Effective product communication is a competitive advantage that can help target receptive customers with your marketing messaging. Whether your product is consumable, durable or wearable, a product communication strategy is an integral component of a good marketing plan.
Your design choices should be in harmony with your concept and unified in communicating your concept. Your concept is, in a sense, the story you’re trying to tell through the visual aesthetic of the site and your decisions should follow a consistent narrative. Visual communication is the act of using photographs, art, drawings, sketches, charts and graphs to convey information. Visuals are often used as an aid during presentations to provide helpful context alongside written and/or verbal communication. Communication is not a one-sided process — both parties must be open and have a level of respect for the other party’s expertise. The focus should be on working together to achieve a successful end product. Within commercial design projects, a few key communication points are critical. Do not hold back on communicating what you like and do not like about the design. The person designing your product needs to know what they can improve on. The more you say, the closer you are to the desired result. Same with describing your abstract, you might have seen the design that you absolutely do not want.
Communication is at the heart of human interaction, and it can make or break a business. Being able to communicate effectively with customers can lead to increased sales, repeat business and referrals. On the other hand, not being able to can quickly lead to decreased sales, frustrated customers and negative word of mouth.
So one big question facing businesses in this ever-more-connected society of ours is: How can businesses improve their communications with customers in order to grow and thrive?
Well, the place to start is to improve the experience people have when they call your business. Because, whether you realize it or not, while phones may feel like an outdated way to communicate, one study concludes: “Phone calls are still the primary channel for customer communications: Social media channels handle just 3 percent of all customer communications, compared to 68 percent who contact customer service by phone.”
That means even in an increasingly tech-savvy world, the telephone is still one of the most important mediums of communication between a business and its customers and prospects.
With that in mind, here are four ways to improve customer experience and communication over the phone so you can drive business and improve customer happiness.
1. Nail the first impression.
We’ve all heard that first impressions are everything, and business is no different. In fact, first impressions are even more important for businesses because prospects can easily send their business to your competition if they decide they don’t like their initial interaction with your company.
One of the easiest ways to botch your business’s first impression is to simply not answer your phone correctly. More specifically, if you’re getting a decent amount of calls on a daily basis and you don’t have an automated system that communicates with callers effectively, it can damage your business more than you may know.
Another study found that “more than eight in 10 consumers (83 percent) say they will avoid a company or stop giving it business after a poor experience with an automated phone system.”
Related: 5 Phone Answering Mistakes That Drive Away Customers
For many businesses, the first point of interaction with a customer will occur over the phone, so the most effective way to ensure better communication with customers is to put a professional automated answering service (called an auto attendant) in place.
A quality service will answer your customer’s calls quickly, with a friendly and professional voice, and route them to the appropriate extension so they’re connected with the right person the first time.
This takes a huge burden off the shoulders of office personnel, makes for a much smoother and effective communication experience and leaves first-time callers feeling good about their initial interaction with your business. Of course, the key to achieving the benefits of an automated answering system is to make sure it’s developed with customer experience in mind.
2. Keep hold times to a minimum.
Consider two research findings cited by Help Scout: “75 percent of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent.” And, “In the last year, 67 percent of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration they could not talk to a real person.”
This isn’t exactly a revelation, it is something many businesses still struggle with. The bottom line is, people hate holding for longer than a couple of minutes, so take steps to ensure all calls are being routed to the appropriate person or voicemail in a less than that.
Again, a good automated answering system will help limit hold times when setup properly. Another step to take is to use a phone that makes a sound to signal when someone has been on hold for a certain amount of time. This may seem like more of an annoyance than a useful business practice, but it will help ensure no caller is left hanging on the line too long.
Related: The Indispensable Features Your Business Phone Must Possess
So work on putting the right processes and technology in place to ensure callers aren’t placed on hold for long periods of time. It’ll help your business in the long run.
3. Make customer service calls a priority.
Customer service is one of the main forms of communication between a customer and a business, so your business can’t afford to drop the ball. A recent survey found that 78 percent of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.
In other words, when communication breaks down over the phone, people take it personally, and they tend to not give you their business.
4. Speak to your customers like real people.
Communicating Your Product Designs For Beginners
Improving communication with customers extends to the language your company uses in conversation with them -- even to having real conversations at all. That means having telephone interactions that are less scripted and that use less transactional language. To start, try to frame your language in a positive way rather than a negative one.
For example, the site Help Scout cites the following routine customer service statement as negative language: 'I can't get you that product until next month. It is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.' To recast the same information in a more positive light, the site recommends something like this: 'That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!'
Related: Language Barrier: How Words May Impede Problem-Solving
Customer service departments should also give teams the right tools, ones that offer better customer insight. Phone systems nowadays have the ability to sync with customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Salesforce, giving your support team access to customer information, such as their purchase history and recent interactions with your business online and over the phone. All will help them better serve your customers in the moment.
Companies should refocus their customer service teams on becoming a customer's ally in resolving their issue, rather than on trying to hit metrics. Businesses often let metrics get in the way of actual problem solving. Instead of trying to beat the fastest support time, focus on engaging customers in a meaningful way, ask them what their problems and expectations are, and go at the problem as a team rather than working against the customer to solve their issue.
Communicating better with your customers will co-create better experiences that leave them more likely to buy from you and refer business to you.
From an idea to the finalization, the product design process takes a few steps. Guaranteed to guide you through them towards the success, the most important factor is excellent communication. The steps in finalizing the product are: analyzing your business to suit the design, creating prototypes for you, letting you view them and have an effect on them to construct the product completely fitting for you, developing it and launching. Design is created after the client have expressed their vision. Wheter or not it comes true depends on how well your exchange of informations went. How to make sure it goes well? Let’s dive into it!
Making a Connection
In order to understand your needs, the designer must get the most out of you. How to help him with that? It makes a great difference if you will follow these rules in the meetings:
- Make Eye Contact
This will make both sides feel like they can trust each other and lead them to be more open about their concept, therefore help ensure they’re on the same page when it comes to the project!
- Get Comfortable
Some people prefere to hold conversations in public and others are fond of more private spaces. Make sure to pick an appropriate time and place for discussing the design. Meeting in person can help you see what each of you have in mind in terms of the design.
- Remember to Have Open Body Language
Do not cross your arms, have a straight and relaxed posture, appear excited, ready to speak and listen. Body language works on our minds more than we think. It can help the information to flow better. In case you are talking about the product design over the phone – you can make your voice sound energetic and reassuring the designer that you are listening to them by simple sounds like ‘’mmm” or ‘’huh’’. You can as well paraphrase what they are saying to make them sure you understood.
- Make Small Talk
Getting to know a little bit more about people you work with will help integrating you and have your conversations go smoother, with both sides more involved. This is really important, especially during long-term projects.
The Way the Designer Works
Another helpful thing to do is to learn about the personal product design process that your designer follows. Paul Ralph explained two basic patterns that designers follow in his article:
- „Reason-centric perspective”
Communicating Your Product Designs Online
That’s when what’s there to achieve is stated at the beginning and must be thoroughly followed to complete the project.
- „Action-centric perspective”
That approach mixes realizing what we want to achieve while already taking action.
A lot of the time, designers follow the second approach. What this means to you is that both you and the designer might find new goals as well as problems along the way. The good side is that it might make processing the project more thoughtful, observing it as it comes to life. When you understand how the production happens, you trust your designer more and become less afraid of a potential failure. Finding out how the designer stresses the matter, takes us to another point.
As you might have learned in school, no question is a dumb question. Producing your concept as best as the designer can, requires them to know your fears, doubts and expecations. The more open about the abstract you are, the better they realize it. Maybe there is something you would like to understand about the product design process. Ask away. The designer will be happy to share their knowledge with you to make your cooperation better. You have the same impact on the project and should be equally involved. Make sure the designer keeps you updated on the project – that way you can avoid conflicts about the arising vision.
Check our new article Agile Project Management For Dummies -> be the scrum master!
Be Prepared for the Discussion
Realize how far is your idea planned and what challenges does it bring. Communicate them to your designer. Prepare a set of questions that will give answers to your concerns. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer of your future product. What do you want him to see looking at it? What kind of feeling do you want it to arouse? What strong points will be bringing consumer’s attention and decide for them to buy it or use it? Remember to listen to what the person has to say and politely debate your opinions. You might have to be ready to compromise. If you think you are right, always speak your arguments to make the statement strong. It will show how important the project is to you. Know the strong and weak points of your concept. Showing how important the project is to you, engages the designer in it and makes it more than just another job to do. Emotional commitment creates a bond between you and the person, drawing them in to make them do all they can to help you.
As huge role as emotions play in conversations, it is important to keep them healthy and reasonable. There are two sides to the conversation. First, you – someone who is expecting the final product to present your vision perfectly, hopefuly as fast and problemfree as it can. Second – the designer, who is hoping to be proud of their final product and to get your approval on it. Both sides are stressed. Is the designer able to do that? How long will it take? Is the costumer willing to compromise? How to cooperate and negogiate to prepare it down to the last detail? It is crucial to maintain yourself and accept that the product design process will take time. But it’s the time worth the wait to meet your expectations. How they will be met, relies on communication between the two of you.
Visual and Verbal Strategy
To get the point across, people typically communicate through images and words. Anthony Williams and Robert Cowdroy tested main elements of that in their study.
- Technical Language
Using technical terms helps the designer, that way the person knows exactly what you mean.
To explain your idea you can choose to affect person’s imagination by comparing your idea to another famous one. It is a great way to navigate the designer in which direction you would like to go.
Showing your idea by movement can apply to shapes, sizes, functions and ratio of one element to the other.
- Drawings and Existing Graphics
If you cannot reach consensus on what you want the product to be like, you can illustrate it by sketching it or showing the designer an already exsisting design. You can also create a so called „mood board”, which is a presentation of colours, images and other inspirations that represent your vision.
Inform the Designer What the Product is for
Best product design process is followed by having as much information as possibile. Share whatever you can about your business, who is it for and why are you doing it, how do you want to operate it. That way the designer will know what will and will not work for the product. Infrom the designer about the target audience, they will understand where you are coming from and it will make the approach way clear to them. Showing and justifying to the designer your journey of how the concept was created in your mind – with as much details as possible, raises your chances of the designer to realize it perfectly.
You think the design is ok, but you would like it a bit better? Say it. Do not hold back on communicating what you like and do not like about the design. The person designing your product needs to know what they can improve on. The more you say, the closer you are to the desired result. Same with describing your abstract, you might have seen the design that you absolutely do not want. Show it to designer, so they know what to avoid.
Keep in Touch with Your Designer
In today’s world with all the technology, you don’t have to meet eye-to-eye with your designer. Set up ways to communicate with them while the project is being processed. You can exchange emails, texts, calls, videoconferences on Skype for example. At INVO we like to use Slack as well as emails and traditional phone calls. This will make it easier for you to give feedback. Make sure you are informed about changes made in your project. Give as many opinions as you can. Carefully analize why certain options are being chosen. The more attention you will pay to the project, the better it will turn out.
Brainstorm with Your Designer
Even if you have your idea all planned out, it is smart to take advantage of designer’s knowledge. They might point out weak points of your project, and bring new solutions to it. Remeber to listen to your designer and reflect on what they say. Experienced designers usually know what sort of design will bring you expected business results. Talking your idea through thoroughly with the designer will definitely benefit you. Always know why you are deciding on a certain thing the way you do.
Organize Your Speech
Remember, to be heard, you need to speak in a certain manner. One of the useful tips is to section out the things that you want to say. It is very effective to make pauses between sections, so that the person you are speaking to has time to process information in their head and be able to ask you questions, leading to an agreement on both sides. Do not rush the information. It may get misplaced. Take your time to explain your ideas. Giving yourself and the designer proper amount of time will improve your way of communicating. You both will be paying more attention, causing better thought processes.
Now you know ways to help the designer make your vision come true. A key ingredient to make the product desing process go smoothly and get on that finish line – clear communication. Without it the product will not come out the way you want it. It is very important to realize that whatever you communicate, the designer will try to use to create your product. Keep in mind at all times, that the more you say, the better. With a lot of information having to be conveyed, you must pass it in a valid way, being sure the designer knows what it is that you want. Communication is an art. Be patient and try to keep your designer on the same page as you!