Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Today begins our first focused entry in the Excellence series. Communications, both internal and external affect the work environment, employee morale, customer satisfaction, and sales success. It stands to reason; with this much at stake it is a topic worth considerable time and effort to perfect.
We call the new generation of eighteen to twenty-something’s “Millenniums” and many believe they will be our most successful generation in a long time. They are bright, tech savvy, and have plenty of good, recent examples of what not to do. However, I believe there is a chink in their armor, one that also permeates the behavior of Seniors, Boomers, Generation X, and Gen Y. This profound flaw is their manner and style of non-verbal, technology assisted communication.
Texting is portable, stealthy (send and receive silently from almost anywhere, including church and school), and non-confrontational. How easy to deliver bad news with a one line note. Ardent users are extremely proficient typing with their thumbs and their use of acronyms, such as LOL, and abbreviations. There is an argument to be made that all of this is beneficial. However, in business the disadvantages of this methodology can far, and quickly, outweigh the benefits.
Some of the chief drawbacks are:
• Foregoing a respectful style, giving up “Dear,” or “Good Morning,” or even a simple “Hi” in favor of launching directly into the subject, which leads to the end of the communication also lacking a personal sign off
• Inability to convey tone and emotion
• Failure to write grammatically correct sentences or use punctuation, thus establishing lack of quality as a customer’s expectation of the entire business
This is not to say that text communications with our customers must always be as formal as a typed letter. If we begin with a slightly more formal style we impress our customers with our professionalism and quality. Then, as the interactions continue, especially they are frequent and part of a thread; we can become more informal and follow the style established by our customer. When mimicking a customer’s communication style we must still maintain a degree of decorum and a representation of quality and professionalism. Meaning, if our customer continues a more formal approach to communication we should always respond using the same format. This is a sign of respect.
In many businesses verbal communication, in person as well as by telephone, are essential. We must be careful to not allow our informal, non-verbal habits to negatively affect our verbal opportunities to serve our customers well. When answering the phone, if we use our first and last names we eliminate misunderstandings. Besides, how can we expect our customers to give us credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other sensitive, personal information if we are unwilling to at least share our complete name with them? Again, as communications and frequency increase with a particular client or customer we can relax our approach. Of course, while always maintaining a respectful posture.
The same rules of communication as laid out above for client/customer interactions, also apply to intra-company and inter-departmental communications. Nothing deteriorates office morale and cooperation faster than communications perceived as disrespectful or rude. Intent is unimportant, perception is all that matters. If you send a note to a coworker with the best of intentions and he/she perceives that note as rude the backlash will be immediate and generally descend into a very unpleasant, non-productive conclusion.
The solution is simple. Begin every interaction with customers and coworkers in a slightly formal, respectful manner, treat everyone as you would like to be treated, and never assume the worst when reading a note or having a conversation. If it seems bad ask for clarification before making a brash retort. You will be surprised at how often the meaning and the perception are far afield.
Next entry we will discuss Excellence in Cooperation.
Your comments and questions are welcome.
Paul D. Alexander
Alexander Group, Inc.