Category Archives: Communications

Sometimes we get it wrong

Sometimes we get it wrong and when we do there isn’t much choice we have to go and apologise.

It might be that you jumped a little too hastily at somebody when they gave you some bad news, but if you don’t apologise the following day or even earlier if you can you create a sense of resentment and a real problem for the future

They say it takes a big man (or a big woman) to apologise but actually, I think you just need to be honest. Say “I made a mistake” and move on.

You’ll have the respect of the other person – they will respect your openness and will tell everybody else. Your reputation won’t be damaged by that momentary slip of your attention or that unwarranted reaction. Your reputation will be enhanced by the recognition from your team that you are big enough to say

“Sorry guys I got that one wrong”

If you don’t admit the mistake the team know that you made a mistake they know that you reacted hastily and your reputation is diminished. The level of trust the team will give you is reduced and if you’re not careful the team will stop sharing with you and you will lose out.

There’s no protection or face saving in hiding from the facts.There’s no point pretending to the customer that everything will be fine when you know the delivery will be late or the project will overrun. They won’t thank you for avoiding the issue and giving them a nasty surprise.

In the same vein, if something has gone wrong with your department or your area of responsibility, tell the boss – sooner rather than later.

Honesty really is the best policy

Breaking down the silo walls

Many businesses are structured into departments which have objectives and targets. There’s a common failure when cross-departmental links are not as strong as they could be, and instead departmental managers and their teams focus on their individual objectives and neglect the greater good of the organisation as a whole.

There’s an extreme example in my own career history. Many years ago my appointment as Managing Director of a division was announced and shortly after the announcement a colleague who was the MD of a different division rang me. Steve congratulated me, and then said “let battle commence” I was somewhat shocked – after all, we both worked for the same parent company. I’d have expected the friendly rivalry to see who could get the best scorecard for the year, but not an all-out battle!

Steve didn’t stay in his role very long, but when you looked at the measurement used to assess his (and my) performance, there was nothing to encourage mutual cooperation.

This approach is often known as operating in silos. Everything is contained within the silo, nothing in the outside world impacts on the silo.

What you actually need is cross-departmental functionality, and one methodology to break down any barriers is to have teams comprised of members from different departments with a cross-business remit. The team is responsible for something that affects everyone – perhaps organising a social event, or looking after the canteen, or making some minor improvements to the working environment. They’ll need a budget, and be empowered to get on and make changes.

You can help prevent the barriers coming into existence if you are careful with departmental objectives but also by reminding managers that they have internal customers, and if you don’t meet the needs of the internal customer the business won’t meet the needs of its external customers.

Finally, if you have an area of friction between two departments it can help if there is a “bridge” position between the two – someone employed to carry out duties that straddle both. That position has reporting lines to the two departmental managers in what is known as a matrix structure.

How do you talk to your customers and prospects?

Not that long ago we were all getting lots of promotional material through the post – junk mail. Now, we get lots of promotional emails – so many in fact that Google have introduced a filter in their email system so they are pre-sorted into a folder labelled promotions.

Guess how many of those you would actually read?

We are told we have to use social media to promote our businesses, but the variety of platforms is amazing. It’s not just Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter but Google plus, Instagram, You Tube, Xing….I could go on and on.

Some marketing gurus are advocating a return to physical mail to stand out from the crowd.

Often, you’ll see a “chat” system available on a website. Click here to “chat” to us and you can exchange a series of messages with an operator.

You might also consider mobile messaging. I know some of my contacts prefer a text message to any other form of communication!

Finally, or course, there is the other use of a telephone – to actually make calls!

The questions should not be “Which method do I choose?” but rather “Which method does my customer / prospect choose?”

There is no point sending emails to someone who doesn’t read or respond to them. You may have a wonderful Facebook presence, but if your target audience doesn’t use Facebook, so what?

If your customer prefers to communicate using a text message, that’s what you do.

If they’d rather talk to someone, pick up the phone.

Make sure you have enough capacity to provide a prompt service. No one will be impressed by a long wait for an operator – either on the telephone or on the web, and unanswered messages on social media will just do more harm than good.

Whatever channel your customer chooses, that is where you go.

 

Building trust

 

There’s a saying that people only buy from trusted sources, and if you combine that with the one “people do business with people” you begin to recognise just how important it is that your prospects and customers can trust you / your organisation / your people.

Establishing trust is difficult and can take a long time. Destroying it can take seconds. I know I have quoted this before, but it bears repetition:

Trust arrives on foot and departs in a Ferrari – Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England.

The rules for maintaining trust are actually very simple.

Be consistent. Trust requires certainty and inconsistency is the enemy of certainty.
Be very clear. Nothing destroys trust faster than disappointed expectations, and they often result from a lack of clarity. Who is going to do what by when?

Keep your promises

If you are going to fail to meet a promise, tell your customer early!
Be responsive. If you don’t answer questions or provide information when requested, your customer will think you have something to hide.

Building trust takes longer and is a little more complex.

Be visible. Your prospect has to know you first. If you know who your prospects are, and where they are, make sure you are visible there. That might be a trade magazine, a particular website or an exhibition. If your prospects are there, you should be too.

Be helpful / of value Your prospect has to like you. If you provide something for nothing or for very little (an email address) you are helping your prospect. We like people who help. What can you give away?

Make it easy. Your prospect will still be nervous and hesitant. What can you do to make the decision an easier one? Is there a trial version or a low cost “light” program they can experience?

Give guarantees. You are confident that you deliver value, so guarantee it to your prospect.

That’s it from a customer / prospect perspective, but what about building trust within your teams?

Similar principles apply – do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it. That will take you a very long way.

 

Actions speak louder than words

 

In business it is important to remember that only a part of your message comes from your words, whether they are written or spoken.

You may have a company mission statement that refers to customer service and support, and create web content that talks about world class customer service.

Perhaps you have a statement that talks about continuous improvement, but do you actually have a system or process that supports the statement?

Internally, perhaps you have something in the induction program that refers to every team member being valued and part of the family?

In each and every case if you don’t follow through with actions to support those words they become worse than meaningless.

Your statements are promises.

You promise to provide a level of service and support, you imply that you value your customers and will “go the extra mile” to help them.

You promise to your customers (and your team) that you will improve the products or services.

You promise to make every new employee welcome and create a family atmosphere.

If your actions don’t support your words, you are breaking your promises. When you break a promise, you sow the seeds of mistrust. If you can say one thing but do another, why should I believe you next time?

If you say something – whether it is verbal, or on your website, or perhaps in a proposal – make sure you do it.

That means that sometimes you will have to say no, and disappoint the other party. No, Mr Customer, we cannot do it that quickly. No, Mr Customer, we don’t support that feature.

Say what you mean, and do what you say you will. Your customers and your team will respect and respond to it.

 

Sometimes we get it wrong

Sometimes we get it wrong and when we do there isn’t much choice we have to go and apologise.

It might be that you jumped a little too hastily at somebody when they gave you some bad news, but if you don’t apologise the following day or even earlier if you can you create a sense of resentment and a real problem for the future

They say it takes a big man (or a big woman) to apologise but actually I think you just need to be honest. Say “I made a mistake” and move on.

You’ll have the respect of the other person – they will respect your openness and will tell everybody else. Your reputation won’t be damaged by that momentary slip of your attention or that unwarranted reaction. Your reputation will be enhanced by the recognition from your team that you are big enough to say

“Sorry guys I got that one wrong”

If you don’t admit the mistake the team know that you made a mistake they know that you reacted hastily and your reputation is diminished. The level of trust the team will give you is reduced and if you’re not careful the team will stop sharing with you and you will lose out.

There’s no protection or face saving in hiding from the facts.There’s no point pretending to the customer that everything will be fine, when you know the delivery will be late or the project will over run. They won’t thank you for avoiding the issue and giving them a nasty surprise.

In the same vein, if something has gone wrong with your department or your area of responsibility, tell the boss – sooner rather than later.

Honesty really is the best policy