February 26, 2013


Effective Communication - The Key to Success with Customers

As I am writing this blog, my bemused state of mind is again and again getting diverted to the substandard service provided by my internet service provider for the last six months. Now, the preview of the whole story is that my internet service provider has repeatedly failed to provide me with a satisfactory resolution to the recurring problem of the snail’s paced speed of my internet. In spite of writing, calling, and following-up with their customer care for n number of times, an untimely response with full of flaws was least expected from them. Now, will I recommend their horrendous services to my acquaintances or friends? The answer is plain and simple ‘’No”.

On the contrary, you must have heard about the Dabbawalas. They have been doing an exemplary business in Mumbai since their arrival in the market. These guys are so efficient in delivering food that in the year 2002, Forbes Magazine found their process’ reliability to be that of a six sigma standard. As many of you might know a process is said to achieve a six sigma standard if it can produce not more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities, which means that 99.99966% of the products manufactured are expected to be defect free. Now, attaining the six sigma standard was quite a monumental feat for them. The dedicated and customer-centric approach made their clients happy, which was the main reason of their booming success and popularity.

So what do you infer from the above facts? Effective communication is the key to success with customers. Let us device a formula based on our conclusion: Customer Satisfaction is directly proportional to Flourishing Businesses.

Think Twice Before Speaking

Customers are unequivocally the king of the market. They are leading businesses and are always quick to stamp an authority on what is right and wrong. Most of the customers are very shrewd and extremely good listeners. You need to be extra cautious and should be able to weigh your words before uttering them in front of the customers because a word or sentence here and there can spell doomsday for you. In a customer and vendor environment, the language or the words that we use can have a strong effect on how the customer perceives the service. In a sales environment, this becomes even more critical.

When we were kids elderly people used to advise us that before speaking something think twice. At times you say something in the moment of rage or stupidity and then realized that your tongue has slipped at that wrong time. Weighing and measuring the words before saying them is vital as customers are quick to pounce upon your gaffes and can hurl bouncers at you that can prove detrimental. As a matter of fact, most of the time customers do not remember good things you might have done in the past, but a misplaced word here and there said or written by you can ruin all the good work you might have done. Whether it is good news, bad news, or simply passing on information, your vocabulary and choice of words are critical as it will have a significant impact on the way the customer hears or observes and as a result they react to it accordingly.

Let us take a hypothetical example. Person A and Person B are giving the same presentation in separate conference rooms. Person A won accolades and earned rave reviews of the audience. On the other hand, Person B got a lukewarm response and no one was interested in paying attention to what was being talked about. Can you answer why Person A managed to grab the headlines and Person B got an unenthusiastic response? This was because Person A was confident, empathetic, energetic, good listener, and knew how to improvise with his words and as a result, won the confidence as well as the hearts of the audience. So what can you comprehend from this? The delivery often determines the reaction and it holds true for customer service as well.

Golden Rules

If you want a long term relationship with your prospective and existing customers, you need to be extremely careful on how you are presenting yourself to them. To be more specific, your primary and sole objective is to make your customers happy with the service experience they get from you. This is where your choice of words and improvisation comes into play and mind you, at the end of the day these small little things can make a huge difference.

Following are some golden rules, which can convince the customers that a high quality service will be delivered to them:

  • Ensure that while communicating with the customer you speak in a positive, upbeat, and most importantly a naturalmanner. This suggests that you are eager to help someone. If you are communicating on the phone or drafting an email, if you're mood is optimistic, chances are that you will say or write things in a way that is more likely to be appreciated.

  • If the situation permits, use sentences where delivery timelines are clearly defined. Customers respond positively to sentences, where time is defined: There is a colossal difference between the sentences "I will try and get back to you on this ASAP" and "I will get back to you on this by EOD".

  • Words of genuine compassion insinuate that you have a fair idea of what needs to be done to resolve the issue in the nick of time. This also shows that you are not just going through the motions.

  • Refrain from interrupting while the customer is explaining his problem to you. Customers can become irate if you disrupt them in between.

  • Be as cool as a cucumber. Avoid arguing with customers and try to be imperturbable even if the situation is trying for you. Also, do not be too defensive as this can portray a wrong picture in the mind of customers.

  • Remember that there is a thin line of difference between improvisation and exaggeration so try to sound genuine. In front of the customer, do not overstate on things, which you feel will be difficult to be achieved. Apparently, a bit of manufactured speech is somewhat obvious, but make sure you do not exaggerate.

  • Try to be a good listener. Make sure you listen and understand them. Consequently, you can more likely provide a resolution to their problem in a quick turn-around time.

Positive Trigger Words

When we are speaking or writing we have a habit of choosing words as every word has a different meaning, which shows different mood or interest. While communicating with the client, you need to have magic words in your artillery that convey the same message, but manage to yield astounding results if used at the right place. Some of the words, which can have a huge impact and can break the monotony of a lifeless customer and vendor conversation, are as follows:

  • Delighted

  • Absolutely

  • Surely

  • Definitely

  • Certainly

  • Pleasure

  • Happy

  • Yes

  • Sorry

  • Assure

  • Kindly

  • Please

  • Great

  • Fantastic

  • Perfect

  • Request

The above active, enthusiastic, and mood-changing words can dramatically change the way customers react to your conversations, e-mails as well as textual chats. These words might seem ludicrously simple to you, but by using these words you can effectively tweak the normally repetitive and predictably tedious language of customer service, which can surely become a game changing scenario in the customer and vendor relationship.

Let us take an example. "We will let you know what can be done regarding this issue" which changes the customer’s mindset from high to low. But, change this sentence to "Our team will be quite delighted to help you out with this issue". Now, unlike the first instance, mark my words, the customer will be smiling on the other end of the phone or happy after receiving your Skype chat because he is confident that you're actually interested as well as confident in bailing him out of troubled waters and henceforth becomes much more receptive to whatever you have to say or write. Speak as a normal person with a smile and a wish to please the customer and be rest assured that the ”Golden Rules” and "Positive Trigger Words" will work wonders for you. The crux of the matter is, just try to calibrate the conventional pattern with the thoughtful use of the above words and you will certainly experience a change in the entire tone of the customer interaction.

Likewise, I can go on mentioning the essentials and benefits of effective communication with customer and this topic, in its entirety has many facets and a complete discussion on the real potential of this topic would perhaps cover the length of an entire book. Therefore, I have tried to explain this topic in this short space.

Last but not the least, make customers happy and pretty much everything else takes care of itself. I may sound clichéd, but it holds true ‘Use soft words and hard arguments’ will make things easy for you.