One of our most important skills, both personally and professionally, is our ability to communicate.
We use our communication skills all day, every day. Given that importance and frequency, you would think we all would have these skills mastered. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.
There are many situations where we all would like to be better at this highly important skill. One of those situations is communicating with customers or clients.
Before you stop reading, because you think you don’t deal with customers, recognize that within any organization and any work process, customer/supplier relationships exist – even between you and your colleagues. Besides, the tips that follow will help you communicate better with your boss too.
Now that everyone is still with me, let’s identify why these communications can be challenging.
It can be tough when we, the supplier, need something from a customer but feel it is difficult to come out and ask for it because, well, they are the customer and it is our job to serve them. Sometimes though, we know that with better or timelier information, or if they would do something differently, we would be able to serve them better. And sometimes it is harder to give a difficult message to customers because of our desire to serve and please them.
Here are four things you can do to help get over these challenges and improve your communications – and likely your relationships – with your Customers.
Think about it, how can your Customers know what you need to best help them, unless you tell them? It could be something as simple as asking them to have their account number ready when they call. It might be something more complex or complicated. Either way, if they don’t know what you need, they may be as frustrated as you are. Even worse, your Customers might think you are just in a rut and unable to fulfill their requests immediately.
Remember, sharing is a two-way activity. This is about more than just your needs – so we must also ask them about their needs and expectations. Approach this as an open conversation, not as a “problem” to be “solved”. Invite your customer to share their expectations with you, and then you can share yours too.
Talk About Benefits
These folks are your customers, so you want to help them see how any change in their behavior will help them. Your customers may not think about your needs much – they figure they are in charge! And, of course, in many ways they are. We need to help our Customers see how they can help us serve them better. They will understand that when they understand how they’ll benefit from doing something a bit differently to help you. Will you be able to be more accurate or responsive to their needs? Will the change help you reduce their costs? When they see personal benefits, you’ll have their attention!
Shoot for Small Gains
Maybe you see several things you’d like them to do differently. Great, but don’t try to make all those changes at once. Help them see how a small change will make a big difference. Once you have mutual success with that tweak, then you can suggest some more changes. Inch by inch, everything’s a cinch.
Recognize Communication Styles
Customers are people, which means they won’t all want to be communicated with in exactly the same way. Make sure you think about their tendencies. Do they speak quickly and want quick resolution? Then get to the point. Do they want the details or background? If so provide it to them. Are they more interested in the relationship? Take the time to learn more about them personally. Your goal should be to take the approach that works for them, not the one you prefer.
All four of these tips lead to one overall conclusion. We will improve our communication with our customers, bosses, colleagues, suppliers – almost anyone – when we work to build a relationship, based on trust and respect, rather than just having transactional communications.
Want to improve your communications with your Customers? Work on building your relationship with them. When you do this, everything gets a little easier and becomes more profitable too!
About the Author
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services.