Communication: we say we are good at it, but are we actually getting worse?
Many people say our communication skills are getting worse in the electronic age we are in. Some people argue that they are communicating more, but more does not always mean better. The quality and meaningfulness of the interaction is really what should be measured.
I walked into my kickboxing class this week and saw many new faces. The room was very quiet with everyone doing their own thing and getting their equipment set up at their space; there was not much talking going on at all. Then a gentleman set up in the spot behind me and said out loud “Hello, how are you doing?” (It was an intentional question to see what reaction he would get from the room). I turned and said “Good, how are you?” He said thank you for answering me and then said “look” and started pointing and counting. At least half of the people in the class were doing something on their phones, totally oblivious to the people in the room around them, and to the fact that he had said anything. His wife joined in our conversation and we shook our heads as we watched those around us interact with their phones until the instructor arrived.
To me, the gym is supposed to be a place where we focus on keeping our bodies fit and clear our minds, but for some the temptation is too great and they can’t leave their phones even for a 60 minute workout. I’ve been going to these types of classes at this gym for almost 10 years now. It used to be that nobody brought their phones. Then there were a couple of people that would put them off to the side of the room and occasionally someone would check their phone during a class. I’m not exactly sure what was different about this week, but it was shocking to see. I will say that there were more millennials in the class than usual, but they weren’t the only ones on their phones; someone from just about every age demographic in the room was on his or her phone. I on the other hand, did not bring my phone to my workout and because of that, I learned about a new class that I would like to attend, and got invited to a future happy hour with my newfound friends! It’s all about communicating!
This translates to business as well. There is no substitute for a face-to-face conversation with a customer that starts with a good firm handshake. Communicating with customers can make all the difference in the success of a project.
Here are 5 quick comments and tips for communicating with customers (or anyone, for that matter).
- Meet with the customer face-to-face (whenever possible). There is no substitution for a warm smile and firm handshake.
- Communicate on regular and consistent basis. Depending on the duration or complexity of the project this could be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or some other frequency, but set a schedule and stick to it. It is important to touch base even if it is to say that there are no updates and the meeting is over. (Everyone just gained some free time)
- Be careful when using email, texting, or Instant Messaging, etc. as things can be taken the wrong way. The reader gets to pick or assume the mood that you are in or the tone that you are using. That tone can change the meaning of a sentence or an entire message and lead to the need for unnecessary damage control.
- Never assume that someone knows what you are thinking or what you mean. State your expectations and requirements; be clear, direct, and concise in your communication.
- Respond quickly, and always acknowledge the person that is communicating with you. Answer them, use active listening skills and interact with them. If you must communicate via text or email, acknowledge that you received the message and respond. If you need to get more information to answer them, tell them that in a short message immediately, and then follow up with the detailed answer later. I’m not saying that you can never text or email, but be careful. These conversations can become very casual and can create bad grammar habits.
Bottom line: talk to your customers, don’t hide behind an electronic device. Develop a relationship with them. And, besides, it is much harder for them to say NO if they like you, or if you are standing in front of them.