We all know the frustrating feeling of being in the dark on a project, event or job. Now turn the tables and imagine your valued client feeling the same way. Taking extra steps to keep everyone in the loop can save all involved from making inaccurate assumptions or serious miscommunication. Failure to communicate within your business’s culture can also lead to some unpleasant side effects with staff, like ambivalence to detail, not adhering to rules and dismissal of company strategies and goals. Worse-case scenario; poor communication could have a detrimental effect not only on your company’s efficiency, but also customer/client satisfaction.
The following tips are just a few ideas that business owners, service providers and even clients can utilize to keep everyone on the same page and communicating effectively.
Listen-Don’t Just Assume: George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Oftentimes we fall into the trap of assuming our clients, contractors or team members know what we are doing or thinking. Making assumptions like, “I am leaving soon for vacation. Since I go on vacation every year the first of June, I am sure everyone will already ‘know’ I am leaving….” is thinking that will only lead to misunderstanding and frustrations on the part of the client when they are unable reach you. Assuming details and directions are known is a sure-fire way to cultivate dissatisfaction and disaster in the future. Work together to create a system for sharing updates, changes and details so everyone involved is well-informed at all times.
“Just to be Clear”..: A big part of our job as good listeners is not being shy about clarifying details (big and small) that can avoid misunderstandings in the future. By leading off with the phrase, “Just to be clear; you’d like me to___.” Repeating back (paraphrased in your own words) the instructions, facts and details assures everyone in the conversation has a solid understanding regarding to what needs to be done. This not only improves working relationships, it promotes mutual understanding and encourages further discussion, which is a good thing.
More Than Verbal: For communication to be truly good, it needs to involve more than just talking. Non-verbal communication is also very important and includes things like body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. Good communication includes being mindful of how we appear and sound to others, and also being in tune to the body language of others. The person across the desk, or in the Skype viewing window, could be sighing because they are feeling overwhelmed and need more clarification. The client who is obviously clock watching or repeatedly glancing at their watch could be nervous about an upcoming event and may secretly wanting to reschedule. When someone’s body language is sending a red flag, take the time to ask the other person (or people) if they have any questions, are unclear on any points or need further details.
On the other hand, communication on the client’s part is every bit as important to the client/team relationship. While a client may know what is going on in their own lives and businesses, their support staff may not. Being non-responsive to email or follow-up attempts because they are hip deep in a time-sensitive project or maybe even under the weather may make sense to the client, but often sends a negative message to the team. For the virtual assistant, it makes it difficult to schedule projects, assign tasks to team members, and effectively complete projects or tasks if there is no communication from the client. A quick email regarding priorities and availability can easily ward off confusion, frustration and clogged schedules that are often the result of little or no communication.
There are many ways to keep the lines of communication open between clients, managers and team members, including scheduling regular meetings or encouraging non-scheduled dialogue whenever needed. A good rule of thumb is; when in doubt, talk it out. Good communication can improve your business and staff relationships and keep your business humming along smoothly.