How well do you communicate with your customers? Are you listening, does your customer hear what you are saying? Every day we interact with our customers, team mates, colleagues and managers. Is your message getting delivered?
1. Actively listen.
It is easy to be on a call, but no one can see you “nod”. Make sure to acknowledge the person by replying with “I see” or paraphrase what they said. Side benefit: you look impressive!
2. Ask targeted questions.
Once you’ve practiced #1, you can now ask intelligent, pointed questions. Consider what your customer said, and more importantly what they didn’t say.
3. Show respect.
Respect your audience. Stop talking, try not to interrupt and focus. Avoid distractions such as typing on your computer or checking email. Be in the moment. When you demonstrate respect for your audience you show them you respect yourself as well as them!
4. Tell the truth.
“The whole truth, and nothing but the truth…” Are you on a call with a very upset customer because the DB crashed, and we were at fault? Escalate the call to your manager, and then listen. If we are at fault, we’ll always admit it. It’s counterproductive to try to shift blame. Even in times of stress, try not to lose sight of that fact that we’re in the solutions business. The customer can handle the truth, and they will respect you more for delivering it.
5. Understand what your customer values.
What systems or DBs are most important to your customer? Are they cost driven? React appropriately.
6. Be candid.
Be straight forward — don’t cover things up. State facts and avoid excuses. This, in turn, builds trust and a sense of partnership.
7. Be consistent.
“Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” Nothing could be truer when dealing with customers. Enough said.
8. Dedicate yourself.
Relationships aren’t built overnight. Dedicate yourself to the process, and you will reap the benefits in the long term. Patience is key.
9. Ask for feedback.
How do we get better if we don’t know where we need to improve? Asking for feedback will open the doors of honesty, so be open to the response that you’ve requested.
10. Be Persistent.
Still not sure on the requirements? Seek clarification by rephrasing your questions and using paraphrasing. Before the end of the conversation, be sure that you are clear on next steps. Ask until you know.
11. Build rapport.
Find common ground and let the customer know you can relate. Compliment them and focus on areas of agreement. They have lives outside of the office, so try get to know them.
When you smile while you’re talking, your customer can hear it in your voice.
13. You’re an expert — act like one.
Don’t undermine your expertise by asking questions that can be answered internally. Write a note and ask your team.
14. Be flexible.
Be creative in finding solutions. The only limits are the ones we place on ourselves by thinking small. Customers needs change, we need to change and adapt with it. Don’t get stuck in the past.
15. Maintain constant communication.
Don’t restrict yourself to only talking to your customer when there is bad news. Share the good news, too!
16. Be Careful What You Say.
Customers often take things literally. Avoid words such as outage or crash, etc. Continue to be honest, but these words and ones like them trigger panic. Just use different ones.
Effective communication takes work and patience. Commit yourself to improving every day, not just with your customers but with your peers, managers & even your family!
What do you think? Have something to add, let me know what works for you!
Please note: Not all of these ideas were my own, but some are. Still I must give credit to that class I took called “Encouraging Upward Communication “. Author/teacher unknown.