A simple error in communication can be the clincher that loses you an important sale, and more importantly, a lifetime customer. Effective communicating is one of the most important aspects of having a successful business. Black History Month is nearly here, so be prepared with these 7 easy ways to opening up better communication with your customers.
#1 - Never Interrupt
Never, ever interrupt others, particularly your customers. They’ll be particularly upset if, while they’re explaining a problem, you interrupt them and start offering a solution. If you feel you have to interrupt, at least cut to the chase and tell the other person what you think his or her main idea was. That way, the other person at least can confirm or correct you, and in either situation can save time.
#2 - Actively Listen
Did you ever get the feeling, when talking to someone, that you were just talking to a wall? The person may have heard you but gave no indication of it at all. Avoid doing the same thing. When communicating with others, it’s just as important that people be aware that you’re listening as it is that you’re actually listening. For that reason, be involved with and react to what the other person is saying, either with a nod, or an “I see,” or a paraphrase of the other person’s statements. You’ll strengthen your own understanding and make a much better impression.
#3: Use analogies to explain concepts
A good way to explain a technical idea is to use an analogy. Though they have limitations, analogies are helpful in explaining an unfamiliar idea in terms of a familiar one.
#4: Use positive statements instead of negative ones
Your customers are more interested in your capabilities than in your limitations. The way you say things to them influences how they perceive you and your business. You can be seen as a roadblock or you can be seen as a partner. Instead of saying “I can’t help you unless you can pay with a credit card” say, “Do you have a credit card you’d like to use?” and be creative about ways you can offer solutions.
Here’s another reason to avoid negative statements. Have you ever experienced gaps of silence in your telephone calls, where the conversation breaks up? Usually it happens when using a cell phone. If the gap occurs as you’re saying “not,” your recipient could get the opposite message from what you intended.
#5: Be careful of misinterpreted words and phrases
Sometimes we say something with innocent intent, but the other person misinterprets it. We mean to say one thing, but our pronunciation or inflection causes us to convey something else.
Be especially careful of the word “you.” Overusing this word can make the person you’re talking to feel defensive or threatened. Instead of saying, “You need to speak louder,” try saying, “I’m having trouble hearing.” Another issue involves the dual meaning of “you.” Unlike other languages, English uses the same word to refer to an actual person (for example, the person you’re talking to) as well as to a hypothetical person. Suppose you said to someone, “You never know what’s going to happen next,” and meant to equate “you” with “people in general.” The other person might think you’re referring to him or her specifically and take offense. A better alternative might be, “It’s really unpredictable here.”
If someone is upset, one of the absolute worst things to say is “calm down.” It might work one half of one percent of the time, but as a rule all it does is make things worse.
#6: Remember that purchase problems involve emotional reactions
When customers have a purchase problem (for example, UPS is running their order a day late because of weather problems), keep in mind that they’ll almost always have an emotional reaction as well. Those emotions can range from simple annoyance to outright panic, depending on the importance of the product and the time element involved. It’s important to acknowledge and recognize these emotional reactions. If all you do is solve the problem and walk away, chances are the customer will still be upset.
In these cases, simply saying something like, “I know this is really hard for you” or “I hate when that happens to me” can help the customer feel better about the situation and possibly feel more positive about you. Always remember to apologize if their issue has anything to do with you or your business. Treat their problem, however small it may seem to you, like it is a big deal and that it isn’t something that happens often. Be surprised that there was a problem, that way the customer will realize this isn’t a problem they will have to continue dealing with if they are your customer.
#7: Keep the customer informed
There’s an interesting fact about the production of mushrooms. While they are growing, mushrooms are kept in a dark building and are covered with fertilizer. Don’t treat your customers the same way. Here’s what I mean:
Keep your customers informed of developments involving them, particularly with regard to any order issues or developments with their purchase. If a customer leaves you a request by e-mail, let the customer know you received it, even if you are still in the process of handling it. Doing so gives the customer one less matter to worry about.
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