The well-known adage that “people do business with people” means that you cannot afford to damage business relationships with poor communication. So here are some tips from Business Garage on how to improve your professional communication.
Resist the temptation to use slang or colloquialisms, particularly if you are communicating with a customer. If your language is full of jargon, it can appear that you are not taking your work seriously. Be respectful of those around you, but also empathetic when necessary.
When answering the phone, a professional greeting with a smile gives a positive impression of someone cheerful and ready to help. Speak clearly and don’t talk too fast! Be patient and if taking a message for a colleague, note down name, company, contact details and anything else relevant, then forward on by email as soon as possible so the message is not lost.
Smartphones have changed the way businesses operate and customers are more likely to expect 24/7 support. Tools like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger can help engage with customers and respond quickly. Ensure that you have updated your smartphone so that you are using the most recent version and keeping up with the rest of the world.
According to a recent Ofcom study, people in the UK are on average online for 24 hours a week, mostly due to smartphones. However, you can limit time on social media or your smartphones by turning off social media notifications, unsubscribing from marketing emails or using tools such as website blocking applications. Facebook and Instagram have both introduced time limits. Less time spent on addictive smartphones can improve mental health as well as concentration at work.
With the rise of ubiquitous smartphones and their constant notifications, it is easy to be distracted. ‘Phubbing’ (snubbing someone by using a phone while they talk to you) is not only extremely rude and annoying, but also means you are unlikely to catch or remember everything they tell you. If you are meeting with a client, make a conscious effort to put your phone down (on silent or, even better, switched off) and really listen to what they are saying. Show the same respect you would expect from others when you are talking. Eye contact and mirroring body language help build rapport and demonstrate that you are listening.
The devil is in the detail!
If you are not clear on what the person is asking, do not be afraid to ask questions or clarify your understanding. It is much better to check politely and respectfully that you have understood correctly, rather than going down the wrong path and wasting your (and your client’s) time.
When you are paying for a product or service, it is very frustrating to receive a badly-written, difficult to understand email from customer services. Take the time and effort to read through your work, whether it’s a presentation, document, spreadsheet or an email. Do not rely solely on spell-check as it often does not pick up on sentences that do not make sense. We can all think of examples of miscommunication caused by auto-correct disasters, so be vigilant!
Whoever you are writing to, whether a colleague or a customer, be clear, concise and then read through carefully before sending. Look up any spellings you are not 100% sure of. Most importantly, check you are emailing the correct person to avoid emails getting lost and check the spelling of their name so you do not accidentally cause offence.
Keep a record
Email trails are the perfect tool to track conversations so that you can refer back to points, especially if there is a dispute. Where possible, put things in writing to avoid any later confusion as to what was said. File emails in folders if relevant so you can easily find what you need.
Many customer services teams share responsibility for responding to customers’ emails, so it is useful for colleagues to be able to follow earlier steps in the conversation. Check whether your emails are automatically archived: for example, in MS Outlook 2007 and previous versions, AutoArchive will remove older emails from your inbox.
Use an email signature
This will look professional (the company logo helps make the brand more memorable) and enables customers to check your website, follow you on social media or contact you via telephone, depending on what you include. Legally you need to include:
- Your company name;
- Your company registration number;
- Your place of registration;
- Your registered office address – this may differ from your business premises.
Business Garage offers copywriting and virtual PA services, including proof-reading and note-taking for meetings. Call us on 01235 433099 to find out more.