7 tips to effectively communicate a price increase to customers
Price increases. A necessity for business. Not a nice thing for customers. And with supply chain issues and the price of living increasing, businesses across the globe are being forced to review their pricing structures to survive.
But there’s a way to communicate a price increase without impacting the customer experience (and minimising customer loss). Here are seven things to consider when communicating your pricing change.
(1) Tell them DIRECTLY
Relying on only verbal communication to notify customers of a pricing change is dangerous as it's so easy for your customer to forget or misinterpret.
Use direct channels to communicate the change, such as email or direct mail, incorporating person-to-person interactions into your strategy as additional touch points. This could be as simple as all customers being notified by email and then your account managers following up with clients directly to ensure they are across the upcoming price change.
Written communications are always recommended for changes that can directly impact the customer. It also helps you with any complaints that may arise, as you have physical proof that they were notified before the new pricing came into effect.
If a large change, think about using multiple touch points and leveraging existing touch communications to reinforce your message.
Add an insert or information banner on your invoices
Link back to a newsletter or news piece on your website that provides more information
Include an article in your newsletter that provides more context about the change or what it means to the customer.
(2) Tell them EARLY
No one likes to hear about a price increase as they hand over their credit card or get an invoice!
When communicating a price increase to customers, tell them early. I generally recommend at least a month's notice, but for businesses that issue invoices you also need to take into consideration your billing cycle.
Ideally you want to notify your customer one cycle before the change comes into effect. While each business is different, as a general rule, below is a guide as to how early you should notify your customers.
Recommended minimum notice period
1 month prior
1 - 2 months prior
2 months prior
2 months prior
You should also take into consideration any clauses in your contract or laws related to your industry that may define when you must notify customers of the change. For example:
Does your contract stipulate a set number of days, weeks or months changes need to be communicated?
Does it include how your customer will be notified?
Is there a clause that excludes the customer from the price increase? (such as X price for the first six months)
Does the contract include a clause around changes in pricing?
Will an amendment need to be provided or a new contract need to be signed?
For example, some financial services must notify customers of changes via mail at least 45 days prior to the change coming into effect, and this change must be communicated via post. Other industries may require an amendment is provided for any changes to services stipulated in their contract. The key here: chat to a legal professional and know your contract terms! Better to chat first rather than get a nasty letter later.
If a large change, don't rely on one touch point (notifying once through a single channel, such as a one off letter). It’s easy for a customer to miss an email or a letter to get lost, resulting in one surprised (and angry) customer. Instead, integrate the message across several channels or think about reminder communications prior to the change coming into effect. And make sure to always include an effective date on all communications.
(3) Link to QUALITY
This is a big one. Your notice should always include messages that link back to the product or service quality your customer will receive. After all, they are currently paying for a particular standard to be held. So, what will the price increase get them? Why should they be OK to pay more?
Be sure to include how the change will help you maintain or enhance their level of service, support or product quality. Ensure the customer knows what they will get for the change, including any enhancements or additional benefits it will bring.
Will the customer get access to more specialists / expertise?
Will they receive their products and services faster?
Will they get better quality products or services?
Will this ensure longer hours or more availability?
Will this give them access to additional benefits or services?
Remember, they are paying for an output. Tell them how the price increase benefits THEM.
(4) Give CONTEXT
Your customers need to know WHY and HOW the change has come about.
This doesn't need to be war and peace, and should only include details relevant to the customer.
For example, your customer doesn't need to know that you've moved an hour away and you need to increase prices to cover extra petrol costs. Or that your supplier has increased prices, reducing your margins.
Why has it come about? Provide some background, but keep it simple. Too much detail can appear as an excuse or justification (which is never a good look for a business). Remember, all the customer really wants to know is the "so, what?":
So ... what does this mean to my service?
So ... what changes should I expect?
So ... what do I get?
So ... when does this all change over?
If the increase brings additional benefits or a better product or service, tell them!
(5) Be CONSISTENT
When communicating your change, consistency is key - whether that be across your customer channels or within your own team.
Ensure you have one unified set of messages across all your communications, and that your staff are across them as well. This makes sure no matter where or when your customer hears about the change it's the same.
Often confusion rises from your staff being missed from the change journey, leading to miscommunication or incorrect information being provided to customers. To ensure your team is across the upcoming change consider:
Internal Q and A's for your operational, accounts or customer-facing teams.
External FAQs your customer-facing teams can point customers to for more information
Short scripts for your inbound teams to reference on calls
Presentation slides for your management team to share in team meetings, including timelines and key customer communication dates
It's also important to chat to your account management or sales team to see if they need any additional support, such as an email template they can send to large accounts, a slide for their monthly customer meeting or what this means for existing quotes.
(6) DIRECT queries
Who do your customers contact with feedback or concerns?
Sadly this one gets missed a lot. A communication goes out, but there's no information on who to go to with questions. The result? Your customer will go to the first person they deal with, creating chaos for your team and potential call volume increases. Then there's the impact to your customer's experience as they get bounced from person to person trying to get answers.
Before your communication goes out, make sure you consider how customer queries should be managed.
Do they need to be transferred to a particular team?
Are you happy to manage questions over the phone or prefer they are emailed?
Do you need to create a form on your website to capture feedback?
If your team are asked a question, do they have the tools to answer the question or do they need to direct customers to a particular part of the business?
Whatever your chosen outcome, its important to communicate it to your wider team so they can respond correctly from the start. This not only empowers your team to better manage queries, it leads to a better customer experience.
Remember, the price increase may be good for you but it could mean a more expensive service or product for your customer. And often businesses forget there is a human on the other end, especially when you are a business-to-business service provider.
Be empathetic, and don’t be afraid to use emotive language (e.g. this has resulted in the difficult decision to increase …).
While it may appear easier to handle the change formally - especially if there are some legal implications - you could come across cold and uncaring about the potential impact on your customer. Since Covid this is even more important, as customers expect more conversational, emotive communications and want to deal with businesses that have more 'heart'.
Looking to increase your prices?
Being unprepared increases the risk of customers leaving. Chat to me about how we can effectively communicate the change to your customers.