Once you open up a dialogue with customers on a messaging app, it’s important to not let that form of communication fall by the wayside in favor of other channels like email or phone.

By Harsha Pentapelli

Ask any small business owner and they’ll tell you brand loyalty is good for business. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, emotionally-connected customers can be 50 percent more valuable on average. But figuring out how to forge meaningful connections and turn one-time shoppers into repeat customers and brand enthusiasts is one of the biggest challenges small business owners face.

Strengthening those connections starts with a fast, reliable and authentic way to communicate with your customers. When a customer has a question about your business or needs more information about a product or service, waiting days for an email response or returned phone call won’t cut it. Need proof? According to the 2016 “Facebook Messaging Survey” by Nielsen, 64% of people would choose messaging over picking up the phone or sending an email.

Messaging apps are key for small business owners to build trusted and meaningful relationships with customers. Below are 4 tips to successfully communicate with customers on a messaging platform.

Establish a presence

This may seem like a no-brainer, but before actually communicating with your customers on a messaging platform it’s imperative to establish your presence with a business profile. Failing to add important and useful information to your profile such as a business description, email, store addresses and website can frustrate customers and potentially steer them away from engaging with your business. Your profile is one of the first things they’ll see when they go to message you, and they want to make sure the business they’re engaging with is authentic, active and accurate. If they visit your page and notice outdated information or empty fields, they might not feel comfortable reaching out or giving you their business.

For Marta González Pérez, owner of Marta Cerámica, a popular ceramics studio and shop in Madrid, the business profile feature on WhatsApp Business means her students and clients no longer need to ask her about her studio’s opening hours and location.

Save time with smart messaging tools

There’s a reason your customer sent you a message instead of picking up the phone or sending an email — it’s an easy and quick way for them to reach out with questions or comments about your business. But using a messaging app won’t be effective if you keep people waiting hours or days for a reply.

By using features like quick replies and automated messages, customers can get answers to frequently asked questions, greeting messages that introduce them to your business, and away messages that let them know you’re busy — all within seconds of reaching out. Even if you aren’t at your phone or computer for a few hours, your customers will know that their message was received and that they’re being helped.

That’s especially useful for Bryss Del Ángel, owner of Nails Bryss in Veracruz City, Mexico. Away messages help her respond to customers while she has her hands full tending to clients and after business hours.

Keep track of what’s working

Most messaging apps provide business owners with insights and statistics on message performance, including number of messages sent, number of messages read and more. It’s important that you regularly check these statistics so that you know which approaches are resonating well with customers, and which you might need to switch up. This will ensure that you’re always meeting your customers’ needs and tweaking your approach to optimize for success.

Consistency is key!

Once you open up a dialogue with customers on a messaging app, it’s important to not let that form of communication fall by the wayside in favor of other channels like email or phone. If customers suddenly stop hearing from you or notice a delay in response time, it cold prevent them from becoming a lifelong patron. The good news is that with organizational tools such as being able to label your chats, staying organized is easy. By making sure your business profile is accurate, regularly updating your automatic messages with seasonal happenings and other useful information, and consistently responding in a timely manner signal that you take your business and your customer service seriously. In turn, you can create more meaningful and lasting relationships.

While all forms of communication are important for the success of a business, messaging apps are becoming increasingly popular and the preferred way for customers to get the information they need, fast. Today’s consumer doesn’t have the time or patience to leave a voicemail and wait for a call back, or send an email only to get a response a week later. They want to message. And since they’re using messaging apps, your business should be too.

Harsha Pentapelli is WhatsApp‘s SMB lead of user engagement.