Only a hundred years ago, the only thing most businesses did to communicate with their customers was hang up a cardboard sign. The times have changed. Phones, radio, television and the Internet have made it possible for businesses to build real, meaningful relationships with their customers. The businesses that have embraced the Internet of Things and constant contact model have boomed, while others have started to disappear. Here are 10 modern communication methods that you should be offering your customers.

1. Dedicated Support Hashtags on Social Channels

If you receive a high volume of social media communication from fans and customers, offering suggested hashtags is a great way to sort messages for response. If you have a recurring support question, ask users to flag it with a specific hashtag. That way the correct personnel at your business can find it quickly and respond. This is great advertising on your customer service angle. Dedicated hashtags can also improve brand engagement. Turning the catchphrase from your latest marketing campaign into a hashtag can help you spread your message, for example.

2. Auto Call Back Option During Long Hold Times

People absolutely despise waiting on hold on the phone, and it’s easy to make sure they never have to at your business. Automated callback features allow customers to hang up the phone and go about their days instead of wandering around all day with a phone on their ear listening to infuriating music on a loop. This is a no-brainer and can easily be implemented with a hosted PBX solution.

3. Live Chat on Website

Pop-up chat boxes on your website are the perfect tool for marketing complex products and services. Consumers visit your website because they want quick information about prices and features, but complex services are hard to capture in a static webpage. That’s why cell service providers, for example, all rely on live chat. The feature lets customers get the information they came for quickly and efficiently while also giving your sales staff a free contact with a customer who might have left frustrated otherwise.

4. Live Video Call Option

Video chat is a great opportunity to build relationships with your customers because it offers a sense of what communication experts call “immediacy.” It’s easy to tune our a radio ad or a phone call because your eyes are picking up information unrelated to the sound you’re hearing. It’s also much harder to trust some one over the phone since you can’t read their facial expressions. Video chat solves both those problems. Most customers won’t take advantage of it, but simply offering it shows a high degree of attentiveness.

5. Opt-In Text Messaging Notifications

 Over-texting customers, like sending spam email, is a good way to get people mad at you. Used sparingly, however, texts can be a great way to break big news to your customer base. Have a limited supply of an exciting new product? That’s the perfect situation for a mass text to your biggest fans. They’ll appreciate hearing the scoop first, and they won’t feel like you’re abusing their phone number.

6. Mobile-Friendly Account Access/Management

​Since more than half of all Americans now carry smartphones, mobile apps can be a great way to reach your customers. Push notifications allow you to get important messages out and keep your customers engaged and informed. The trick is that the app has to offer some real value or no one will download it. If you can find a way to offer a free service people will actually use, you can piggyback very effective advertising and branding messages onto it.

7. 24-Hour Customer/Tech Support

Giving your customers a 24-hour number they can call to reach an actual human being is a huge value differentiator in today’s market. It shows an extreme dedication to customer service for a shockingly low cost. You don’t need to have a salesperson or a tech support worker on call at AM to make this work. Just contract with a firm in India to take messages on late night calls. Technically, it’s no different than leaving a voice mail, but customers value the human contact.

8. Post-Sale Follow-Up Emails

Even if you’re selling gumballs at two cents a piece, technology has made it cost effective to follow up with customers after every single sale. The follow-up doesn’t have to be much. The goal is just to show the customer that you care and open an avenue for future dialog. For big ticket items like cars or appliances, a personal phone call is best. For smaller sales, opt for a form of email or text message like “Hey [name], just wanted to make sure the new [product] is working out for you. Are you happy with your purchase?” A message like that sustains the relationship with your brand and invites the customer to communicate with you further.

9. Social Media Personality

Virtually every company in the world now understands the importance of a social media presence, but few take advantage of the huge opportunity platforms like Twitter and Facebook present. These platforms aren’t the place for sanitized corporate language and official legal language — they’re a place to express your company’s personality. Take a page from the playbook of corporate giants like Taco Bell and use social media to interact with followers, poke fun at celebrities, and even give away free samples. Keep it light and entertaining to cultivate your fan base.

10. Hand Written Greeting Cards

The greeting card might be one of the oldest business-to-customer communication techniques, but it’s also one of the best. With bills and bank statements all moving through online channels, a handwritten note in the mail stands out more than ever. Christmas and birthday cards are easy to send. They take only a moment to sign and seal, but they make a lasting impact on customers. If you want them to remember your name, signing it to a card is the way to go.