Written by Matt Stenson on Mar 29, 2016 in

5 Tips For Communicating Clearly With Your Customers

Communicating clearly with your customers can be challenging, especially if your interaction delves into the technical details of your product. Here are a 5 tips that you can use to get your point across:

1. Use Images to Show

The old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. When working with customers on software issues, this can be especially true. It's worthwhile to develop a streamlined way of taking and sending screenshots. I use the tool Droplr. This tool allows me to take screenshots, annotate and automatically upload them in seconds. There are many tools available that accomplish this task. So find one that works for you and have it always at the ready!

Remember that screenshots are a great thing to request from customers as well. A screenshot can quickly clear up a misunderstanding that might otherwise take two or three emails to clarify in text. Taking a screenshot is pretty easy to do on most computers today. If you have less technical users or you deal with physical products you can even ask for a picture via the customer's smartphone camera! 

2. Use Lists for Processes

Detailed processes can become confusing if conveyed in paragraph form. Try using an ordered list instead. This makes following directions much more clear to your customer. The customer can also quickly identify where they ran into trouble in a process. For example, "Step three gave me error 33." 

This doesn't mean that you should always use ordered lists, though. Ordered lists if used at the wrong time can seem sterile and machine-like. If you sense that your customer is becoming frustrated with a process, a reassuring paragraph before diving into a list of items to complete can set the tone properly.

3. Ask for Clarification Instead of Assuming

Sometimes a customer's request can be a bit cryptic. You might make assumptions too quickly about what a customer means and end up trying to solve the wrong problem. It's always a good idea to use reflective listening to clarify with your customer instead of assuming. Try a phrase like, "It sounds like your are reaching an error page after doing X. Is this what you are seeing?" Reflective listening will not only enable you to avoid wasting time solving the wrong problem, it also makes your customer feel cared for!

4. Link Wisely

Knowledge bases and online documentation are a great way of communicating what your customer needs to do to complete a task. Be careful with how you link, though. If a KB page contains five different pieces of information and your customer only needs one, it might be better to copy and paste the necessary portion into your message. Then provide a link along with the pasted excerpt, in case your customer wants to bookmark it for future reference. Using this technique, your customer won't become confused about what information is relevant. 

5. Leave the Conversation Open

When ending an email or phone conversation, leave the door open. Phrases like, "If you have any other questions let me know," or "Let me know if this works for you," are useful in leaving the conversation open. Ending your conversations in this way will allow your customers to feel valued, instead of like a problem or a nuisance. 

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About the author

Matt Stenson of UserScape

Matt is a Support Engineer at UserScape and writer on the HelpSpot Blog.

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