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Great Ideas for Communication

Great Ideas for Communication

presentation skills trainerLaurie Brown

Laurie Brown has over two decades of experience as a trainer, coach and speaker, helping her audience improve their leadership, presentation, sales and customer service skills. 
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Top Five Communication Skills Tips for IT Professionals

IT Communication Skills
Being a great IT professional isn’t enough to be successful these days. Because clients are more demanding, communication more confusing and modes of communication more numerous, to really excel you need to be a master of communication. 


Let’s look at the five top communication tips for IT professionals.

Tech Talk Translation

Being an expert means that you speak a language that sometimes only you and your colleagues understand. To a client, nothing is more frustrating than feeling that they are too stupid to really understand the solution the IT professional is talking about.

The first step is to remove jargon, acronyms and “tech talk” from your explanations. Generally, this will make your message more easily understood. If that doesn’t work, try using metaphors to ground your explanation to what the listener already understands.

Always explain things so that the listener feels “smart.”

Listening skills

You most likely hear the same issues discussed over and over again during the course of a week —and maybe even more on a bad day. When this happens, you tend to stop listening closely. Why bother? You figure that you already know how to solve the problem.

When you stop listening closely two major problems can arise. First, though you may frequently deal with this particular issue, it may be the first time for the person who is speaking with you. Since they lack the experience and expertise that you provide, they may also be more concerned and even alarmed about the situation.

Secondly, by not listening carefully, you may miss an important point and possibly waste everyone’s time because you didn’t have a complete picture or missed a critical detail.

Adaptability

All of us have a communication style. We may prefer quick conversations spoken like bullet points, or maybe we’d rather slow down and ask for time to process before answering. It is easy to communicate when our styles match. It is much harder when our styles don’t.

When styles don’t match the best practice is something I call “chameleon communication”: figuring out the difference in styles to find a way to minimize those differences. You will find that communication will be easier and more productive.

Building trust and rapport

Your job requires that your clients trust you. A big part of building trust is doing what you say you will do. Always follow a promise with a time certain date when you’ll get back to your client. State things with confidence and credibility, and always communicate to the other person how they will benefit from what you are doing.

Using the correct communication vehicle

Email is quick and easy, while text is even faster. Great! The problem is that email and text are not always the best way to communicate.

When we are only using the written word, the receiver can miss a great deal of context. Context can be enhanced by tone of voice and visual cues such as facial expressions and body language.

If there is any misunderstanding, consider changing your communication vehicle. If you have to write more than two emails to explain something, you probably need to add tone of voice or body language to communicate effectively. If there is a complaint or bad news, at the very least pick up the phone or meet in person.

Working on these five best practices will help you become a great communicator.

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Become a Good Listener

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Being a good listener has never been harder. You are constantly barraged with information: notifications, reminders, ringing phones, binging emails—and people expect answers immediately.

What can you do to clear enough space through all this noise in order to focus and hear what’s being said to you? Here’s a simple, but not easy, method to help you listen more effectively.

STOP DROP and ROLE

Let’s take this step by step.

STOP:

Remember how annoying it is when you are talking to someone and that person is completely distracted—looking at email, playing Words with Friends, reading tweets or worse? Have you ever been guilty of the same? Sad to say, I have.

The only way to keep from doing this yourself is to remember to STOP everything else so that you can focus and listen. This is especially critical during meetings and important conversations.

Turn off your phone—not just switch it on silent. Even on silent, the vibrations will still take away your attention.


Close your laptop, turn off your computer, turn over your sudoku. Clear your desk of anything that might take your attention away from the person you are speaking to.

DROP:

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you interrupted them by trying to finish their sentence? 

Have you ever been in a conversation and were surprised to learn that where someone stands on an issue isn’t at all what you expected?

Have you ever left a meeting believing that you were all in agreement only to find out later that what you thought was agreed on wasn't?

These things happen all the time.

Our brains are wired to see patterns and make assumptions based on what we already know. When we are listening, we are always filtering what people are saying through our assumptions and prejudices. Although everyone does this, the problem is that those assumptions are not always true and they get in the way of really listening. It keeps us from hearing what the other person is saying.

DROP your prejudices, preconceptions and assumptions when you are listening. A good way to do this is to constantly ask questions. This helps you make sure that what you think you are hearing is what is actually being said. Questions kill assumptions. Do your best to use open questions (who, what, where, when, why, how, tell me more, explain to me…) to help yourself really listen.

The last step is ROLE.

ROLE: 

Reconsider your role in the conversation:

It is NOT to “one up” the person.

It is NOT to finish sentences.

It is NOT to share your story.

Your role is to hear and understand what the other person has to say and to make sure that you leave with a full comprehension of what they want to communicate.

STOP DROP and ROLE

STOP: Be sure to stop all other activities.

DROP: Drop your assumptions and prejudices.

ROLE:  Remember your role in the conversation.

Try it in your next conversation and your communication and comprehension will improve exponentially.

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When Good Customer Service Rules Go Bad

rules 1752415 1920Tony did exactly as he was trained. He sent a hand-written thank you note to his customer. However, when his customer received it she was furious and tore it up into little pieces before throwing it out.

How could something as well intentioned as a thank you note (hand written, at that) create such a negative reaction?  As it turns out, this customer was still in the process of getting a serious issue resolved with Tony and his company. The thank you note arrived before this issue was dealt with, he never mentioned it, and he never apologized for the problem. Even though the thank you note was handwritten, it was as impersonal as a mass produced letter that starts with “Dear Customer.”

If you only train your employees to routinely do things without understanding the subtleties and context of their actions, you run the risk that they’ll do the right things but in the wrong way.

Here are some of the most common customer service rules, when to break them and best practices to apply instead.

Rule One: Always Use the Customer’s name

Dale Carnegie said “The sweetest sound in any language is the sound of one’s own name.” Though it may be true that using a customer’s name can create a sense of intimacy, it can also have the opposite effect. Watch out for the following mistakes:

  1. Using the customer’s name too often.

“Well, Bob, you can see that this is the perfect solution for your business, don’t you agree Bob? After all Bob, studies have shown this to be true. And Bob….” Overusing your customer’s name may make them uncomfortable, seeming like an insincere gimmick rather than a true connection.

  1. Mispronouncing your customer’s name.

Some people have names that are hard to pronounce or have an unusual pronunciation.  In either case it is always good to ask the proper way to pronounce their name. Once you’ve heard the proper pronunciation, it’s essential that you pronounce it correctly. Customer’s may forgive you for not saying it right, but it will still grate on your customer’s nerves to hear his or her name said wrong repeatedly.

  1. Being too formal or too informal when using your customer’s name.
    Some people prefer to use their first name; some prefer an honorific such as Mr., Miss, Ms, Mrs., Ma’am, Sir, etc. It is far more respectful to start off by being formal letting your customer tell you their preference.

Best Practice: Use your customers name in a way that shows respect and begins to build rapport.

Rule Two: Always Shake Your Customers Hand

For decades salespeople have been taught to shake hands in order to connect and build trust and rapport with their customers. However, there are a number of situations where offering a handshake can create more tension than trust.

  1. Cultural Issues.

There are many cultures and religions in which handshaking is either forbidden or considered rude. If you are dealing with a multi-cultural customer base, learn all you can about the appropriate ways to greet and welcome them.

  1. Social Anxiety.

For some people, the mere thought of having to shake hands creates a level of tension that can ruin the entire interaction.

  1. People with compromises immune systems.
    In 1918 the town of Prescott, Arizona outlawed handshaking to attempt to slow down the spread of the flu epidemic. Many people have been told by their doctors that they should not shake hands in order to protect their fragile immune systems. There are also perfectly healthy people who are afraid of the germs that can be transmitted by a handshake.

Best Practice: Instead of initiating the handshake it is better to wait until your customer makes the first move. Keep your arms relaxed but ready to respond. If they start to shake your hand, you can easily reach out and grasp their hand in return.

Rule Three: Always Send a Handwritten Thank You Note

In this impersonal business world a handwritten note will help you stand out and make a great impression, but sometimes a note can have the opposite effect.

  1. Sending a thank you note before a problem is successfully resolved

As in the opening story, don’t send a thank you note if your customer has an unresolved problem. Don’t send a note unless it’s an apology, not a thank you.

  1. Impersonal note

A perfunctory “thank you for doing business with us” can fall flat like a form letter, ruining whatever connection you may have with your customer.

Best Practice: Although a handwritten note is still somewhat personal in its nature, you need to take it a step further by writing something unique that relates to each customer. Your note should include references to what you have spoken about with the customer (i.e. Their kid’s baseball game; the health of a loved one, etc.)

Rule Four: Follow the Golden Rule

From the time we are children we have been taught to follow the golden rule. “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” Following this rule can create a number of problems:

  1. Treating your customer in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

It is somewhat egocentric to assume that your customer always has the same wants and desires that you do. For example, if you are a gregarious person who likes lots of conversation and connection, you risk pushing your customer away if that kind of treatment makes them uneasy.

  1. Missing an opportunity to surprise and delight.
    When you only use yourself as a reference about what would impress your customer you lose the ability to be nimble and creative. When you listen carefully to your customer he or she will give you clues about what you can do to go the extra mile.

Best Practice: Use Tony Allesandra's PlatinumRule; “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” This ensures that your customer will be treated in a way that meets his or her needs.

The bottom line to all these rule breakers and best practices is to keep your customer service personal. Don’t just follow the rules, choose the best way to apply them to meet and exceed  your customer’s needs.

About the Author:

Laurie Brown is an international trainer and consultant who works to help people improve their communication skills. She is the author of The Teleprompter Manual, for Executives, Politicians, Broadcasters and Speakers. Laurie can be contacted through www.lauriebrown.com 1.248.761.7510

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