Do you think you communicate well with your customers and how do you know? I recently saw a LinkedIn post that asked the question “Can you sum up in just one word the one requirement for customer communication success?” The respondents posted the following words; relevance, clarity, respect, personalisation, engagement, context and deliverability.
I wonder how many other words might sum up what we should do to communicate successfully with our customers. How about adding listening, openness and timely to the list.
I would be reluctant to try and pin successful customer communication down to one word due to the multitude of variables in the communication process. However the PLEASE acronym is an example of a model that can help us to better communicate with our customers.
Pay Attention to the customer: Put down or aside what you are doing and give your undivided attention. Give eye contact if face to face and if on the phone, don’t try doing another task on the computer at the same time.
Listen: Take in all the information provided. Listen for what is not said as well as what is said.
Enquire: Use questioning techniques in combination with active listening techniques to get the full picture.
Analyse: Try to see the fuller picture. Why is the customer not completely satisfied? What is the context? Don’t be defensive.
Solve: Fix the problem. If you need additional help or authority get it.
Enlighten: and express. Don’t keep others in the dark – let others know what has happened and what can be learned from the incident to prevent it from happening again.
(Taken from: Eunson, B. (2008). Communicating in the 21st Century’ 2nd Edition. Sydney: John Wiley & Sons. p. 629)
What is important is that you listen to your customers and don’t argue—problem solve instead. And most importantly be prepared to apologise. I’m not suggesting you have to apologise for the product or service if you don’t feel it is at fault but apologise for how the customer is feeling. “I’m sorry this has happened to you Sir, let’s see how we might sort out this problem” or “I understand that this must be making you frustrated…”
It is hard for people to argue if you apologise or if you agree with them. It takes the wind out of their sails.
Customers are the lifeblood of our businesses. Building good relationships with them is paramount to our success. In the day of digital media where customers will happily share positive and negative feedback on our products and services on the internet, we can’t afford to be blasé.
Invest in your customer relationships, be genuine and real, listen to your customer’s feedback and learn from it. After all, if you aren’t delivering what your customers are expecting or looking for, you will soon have no customers to deliver to.