Communicate Better with Your Customers

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* As originally published to the Communicate Better Blog on December 11, 2014

When it comes to building relationships with key customers, our ability to communicate face to face is paramount. Service leaders often spend countless hours working with representatives on phone skills, and yet invest little effort to become better in-person communicators. Building true loyalty with your customers will require more than a semi-annual courtesy call, or occasional freebie promotion. They need to know your face and have a true connection with you. By educating yourself on effective communication, you will enhance your ability to partner with others and be seen as credible by them.

SnapJudgementssmallHave you ever considered the number of snap judgments we make about a person when we first meet them? Eleven in the first seven seconds! Your brain is capable of taking in 10,000 non-verbal communication cues every minute*. It’s no wonder we are so tired after networking events or parties. Your mind is working overtime to absorb and understand a vast layer of communication that has taken place long before we even open our mouths.

And why is this so important? Our ability to get a message through is complicated with many different types of barriers. We view the other person through a lens of accumulated assumptions, such as snap judgments we made about them (potentially months or even years before). Carrying these assumptions about each other can be dangerous, because in many cases they are wrong. It is estimated that men are only 42% accurate in perceiving non-verbal communication (compared to 87% in women!*). This is further complicated by the lens of our own world view. We are far more likely to trust someone who is “coming from the same place” in terms of needs, values, and beliefs.

MegaPhonesmallIn order to be seen as credible by customers and co-workers alike, we must consider how they are going to perceive us. The most powerful communication occurs when our verbal – vocal – and visual languages are in alignment. When the way we appear matches the things we say and the way we say them, magic happens! You will not only be seen as more credible, you enhance the ability of the audience to understand your message. When any one of these three is out of alignment, it becomes a distraction and significantly undermines our ability to relay a message.

This is why effective communication over email is so hard. When we consider that over 90% of the message is communicated through tone and non-verbal cues, being understood in simple text can seem like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Consider the following tips:

Invest the effort and resources to get in front of your customers as often as possible. There is no substitute for this. This responsibility cannot be the burden of sales alone, either. We, as service leaders, must also represent our organizations through personal relationship.

AngersmallDress in a manner consistent with the result you are trying to achieve. Think about your audience, and determine how you can personify credibility before you even have a chance to speak (since they will have already made up their mind about you anyway!)

Be mindful of your gestures. Think of how you can enhance your message with your facial expressions and hands. Keep gesturing below the waist to a minimum as these movements are generally ineffective and distracting. Also, find a strong, confident standing position and stick with it. Do not fidget with your feet or slouch.

Most importantly, make an intentional effort to become a better communicator. A Toastmasters club is fantastic practice and will challenge you in this area. There will be benefits you never would have expected in all facets of your life, not just in the office.

When we communicate effectively, our impact as service leaders is amplified ten-fold. Not only do we establish better connections with our customers, but we can act as a powerful voice on their behalf within our organizations. As Paul Meyer famously stated “Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success!”
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* From The Pin Drop Principle by David Lewis and G. Riley Mills

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