The 10 best business communication tools to help your clients contact you
If you want your practice to prosper, efficient client communication is key.
Clients must be able to contact you easily and reliably – no matter if it’s a prospective client reaching out to discuss the range of your services, or an existing one who needs your help with issues they are facing.
However, modern business communication is complex. It’s no longer a matter of just listing your address, landline, and fax number in the Yellow Pages or industry directories. Instead, clients now expect businesses to provide a wide range of communication channels, from voice and video calls to live chat.
According to recent data by Statista, preferences for different channels vary widely according to a variety of factors, age among them. For example, while the majority of clients under 35 prefer to reach out via email, live chat, or social media, 51% of those over 55 still prefer voice-based communication.
So, which are the most important communication tools and channels that your practice needs to provide to meet client expectations? Here is the run-down.
1. A clear “contact us” page on your website
To begin, you need to have a straightforward “contact us” page on your practice’s website. That said, if you don’t have a website, you need one!
Having a website is essential, even for a small practice. In 2021, clients expect reputable businesses to have an online presence. In fact, 56% of people flat out don’t trust businesses that don’t have websites.
However, your practice’s website doesn’t need to be a complex affair. Having a straightforward home page that lists your services and an “about” page that gives some background information on who you are is already a great start.
Most crucial in terms of communication, however, is a clear-cut “contact us” page. Your website is a cornerstone of your practice’s brand. Chances are that clients will check it out before deciding to engage your services.
That’s why your “contact us” page needs to make it a breeze for them to reach out. Here, you need to list all possible options they have to contact you. Also include the address of your practice and a Google Maps widget if you ever expect clients to come see you in person.
The more forthcoming you are with information and communication channels on your “contact us” page, the more people will take the leap and reach out.
2. Online contact forms
One essential element of your “contact us” page – and your website in general – is contact forms.
Simply listing your email address on your website may seem the obvious strategy, but it can lead to a variety of problems. The most obvious problem is the torrent of spam emails you’re likely to receive if your email is public. The more serious problem is the cybersecurity threats you’ll be facing, such as phishing mails and social engineering scams.
Contact forms, on the other hand, make it easy for prospective clients to get in touch, and for you to ward off spam.
If your website runs on WordPress, there are several fantastic online form builder plugins that provide templates and easy drag-and-drop design. By harnessing these tools, you can create visually appealing forms that encourage your website visitors to take action.
In addition, you can also create a range of specialized forms, such as client booking forms. If you’re looking to expand your team, simply add a job application form.
3. Up-to-date online business listings
Next, business listings should take a prominent spot on your business promotion agenda. These include Google My Business, Yelp, and Trustpilot, alongside a range of industry- and location-specific directories.
Make sure that you appear in all of these listings, and that they provide up-to-date contact details to potential clients.
Managing your practice’s appearance in these listings is crucial because the majority of people check them before deciding whether to engage your services, especially when it comes to the reviews that past clients have left.
According to a report by Trustpilot, nine out of ten people check a business’ online reviews and testimonials before deciding whether to make a purchase.
Consequently, you should not only encourage clients to leave positive reviews, but also make sure that your business’ contact details appear prominently in all the relevant listings.
4. Virtual business phone services
As mentioned above, a vast majority of older clients still prefer voice-based communication channels. But even among the younger generation, 29% still say that calling a business is their go-to method of reaching out.
That’s why having a business phone number is crucial for your practice.
However, instead of opting for a traditional landline, or investing in a business mobile plan and carrying two phones with you wherever you go, you can consider a cloud phone system.
As their name suggests, virtual business phone services let you create a virtual phone account for your business. You have free rein over your business phone number and the number of extensions.
Then, you can use your phone number by installing an app on any one of your business devices, including your cell phone, tablet, or computer. Virtual phone services usually include voice calls and text messaging. Some providers also offer video calls.
Another advantage of virtual business phone services is that they are easy to integrate into your website. For example, you can add a click-to-call button to your “contact us” page.
5. Messaging apps
Next up is messaging apps, which are now an important avenue of business communication.
Over four billion people worldwide use messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. And 56% of them say that they have used them to reach out to businesses.
While it may be hard to maintain accounts for your practice on all of these apps, it’s a good idea to sign up for the main ones – WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
WhatsApp has more than two billion monthly active users and even offers tailored business accounts. On Facebook Messenger, businesses can deploy chatbots to deal with frequent queries (more on that below).
6. Live chat
Depending on the size of your practice, you might also want to consider live chat as a communication channel for customers to contact you.
The considerable advantage of live chat in comparison to email communication is that potential clients will get an immediate response. According to Help Scout, a customer service software company, 82% of customers are satisfied with support from live chat, while only 44% are satisfied from support over phone calls.
As opposed to most messaging apps, you can offer live chat directly on your website.
To do so, you have to sign up with a live chat provider. These usually offer monthly or annual subscriptions. Once you’ve created an account, you add a few lines of code to your website, which integrates a chat icon that (potential) clients can click to reach out to you.
If your practice is expanding fast, you will soon be getting too many queries to handle by yourself or with your current team. Chatbots can help you deal with some of them.
Running on sophisticated natural language processing software powered by artificial intelligence algorithms, chatbots can handle routine conversations with your clients.
Whether it’s scheduling or cancelling appointments, or asking questions about certain services, chatbots ease the communication workload of human agents. Furthermore, many of them offer integrations with common scheduling tools such as Calendly and business platforms, which fully automates the customer time management process.
While they were much maligned in their early years, their technology has now matured to the point where many clients are not even aware that their interlocutor is an AI. Even more importantly, many don’t care, as long as their needs are fulfilled.
In addition to taking work off the shoulders of your human team, chatbots also have the advantage of being available 24/7. If a client faces an issue in the middle of the night, or in a different time zone, a chatbot is already a great first point of communication. Even if they can’t resolve the issue, they can forward it to a human agent and reassure the client that their needs will be given priority.
To deploy a chatbot, you have two options. You can either opt for an off-the-shelf solution or custom-build a chatbot yourself.
The first is the speedier option and will leave you with a bot that is great at routine tasks, such as pulling information on the status of orders or booking appointments. The second requires a little more effort, and a lot of sample data to train your bot. But it will also give you a custom-tailored solution that’s adapted to the needs of your clients.
8. Social media
No matter what the size of your practice is, harnessing social media to communicate with clients is always a good idea.
Especially for younger clients, social networks are a standard avenue of gathering more information about businesses and reaching out to them. Facebook Messenger is a prime example of that.
But even older clients often expect reputable businesses to have a social media presence, especially on networks like LinkedIn.
That being said, it’s not necessary to maintain accounts for your practice on all social media, from Instagram to Pinterest. Instead, research which ones are favored by your target audience, and focus on these.
Apart from providing direct channels of communication, social media is also a great way to periodically update your clients on what’s new in your practice and to get valuable direct feedback.
9. Video conferencing tools
After a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, it goes without saying that video conferencing tools are essential for client communication.
Whether it’s a first consulting call or an update with a long-term client, video calling platforms are an ideal channel for remote face-to-face meetings.
The two most important issues that you need to consider when picking a video conferencing service for your practice are privacy and the range of features.
More likely than not, the majority of the information that you discuss with clients is highly confidential. That’s why picking a provider that offers top-notch security and end-to-end encryption is essential. Otherwise, your calls might be subject to cybersecurity attacks, causing a cascade of legal issues.
The good news is that most of the major videoconferencing providers now offer end-to-end encryption. Zoom came under fire in the first half of 2020 for not encrypting all of their calls. It even ended up being banned from use in some organizations and several governments. However, the platform now offers full encryption of all of their calls. Some Zoom alternatives include Microsoft Teams, Jitsi, and Google Meet.
In terms of additional features, make sure that the app of your choice lets you share your screen, in case you need to talk your client through complex information. Having a whiteboard, integrations for scheduling tools, and file sharing features is an extra bonus.
10. Unified Communications platforms
By this point, your head might be spinning with all the different communication solutions outlined so far, and you might be mentally calculating just how many services you’ll have to pay for.
Fortunately, there’s a way to simplify much of what has been listed so far, while cutting back on subscription costs at the same time. Unified Communications (UC) platforms are the answer.
As the name suggests, UC platforms centralize a large part of your business communications. In most cases, they offer voice and video calling, messaging, live chat, email, file sharing, and virtual fax.
For you, this has two main advantages.
First, you only have to pay a single subscription fee, which usually cuts back considerably on your monthly communication costs. And second, you will be able to access most, if not all, of your communication channels in one place. Instead of having to switch between various apps and platforms to keep up with your clients, you will have one central gateway. This will make your workflows run more smoothly and enable you to respond more swiftly to each client.
In addition, many UC platforms also offer integrations with other business platforms, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems and productivity tools. For example, you could transfer all communication with a certain client to their CRM profile, including emails, live chats, and call transcripts. Then, you can easily access it for future reference.
Furthermore, most UC platforms also offer inbuilt productivity tools, such as interactive voice response, virtual assistants, and automated call transcription. Like chatbots, these features can take routine tasks off your team members’ hands, allowing them to focus on more challenging tasks instead.
Finding the best communication tools for your business
Finding the right communication strategy for your practice is not an easy task. Ultimately, you have to consider both your own needs and those of your clients, as well as your budget and the capacity of your team members.
To choose the tools best suited to your practice, think about your clients. What do their demographics, online behavior, and social media habits look like? Based on this information, you can make an informed choice.
Some communication practices and tools are essential. Having a website with a solid “contact us” page and maintaining business listings fall into this category. Providing online contact forms and a business phone number have similarly high priorities. Beyond that, though, you can specifically tailor your communication solutions to your clients and their expectations.
If the majority of your target audience are Millennials or even Gen-Z, focusing on channels such as messaging apps and social media is key. People in this age group are also comfortable using live chat and often happy to interact with bots.
On the other hand, if your ideal clients are Gen-X and above, providing solid voice and video calling channels is essential. Here, virtual business phone services and Unified Communications platforms come in handy.
At the end of the day, client communication is a core element of your practice, but also a lot of work. By taking the time to assess the needs of your clients and setting up reliable channels of communications accordingly, you’ll be able to maximize your efficiency – and the satisfaction of your clients.