5 Tips for Better Communication With Customers

I tend to do a lot of my communicating via e-mail.  Yes,  part of that is because I’m not overly fond of talking on the phone,  but a bigger part of the reason why I resort to e-mail is because I want to have a record of what was said.  E-mail is something that can be referred back to later when I’m told,  once again,  that I never said what I actually did say.

If I had to make a guess,  I’d estimate that at least 75% of issues that occur with customers occur because someone in the conversation wasn’t listening.  Maybe the person who took the order was in a hurry.  Maybe the customer was in a bad mood and just wanted to place their order and be done with it.  Perhaps the customer wants what they want,  and what they don’t want is to take no for an answer.   There are a lot of reasons why communications can fail,  but part of your job as a decorator is to make sure they don’t.  Here are some tips to help you achieve that goal.

Tip #1: Listen – A recommendation to listen sounds basic,  and it is,  but it’s also something a lot of us don’t do well.   People tend to equate listening with being silent and not talking,  but that’s not always true.   Real listening means giving your attention to the person speaking, and not being distracted by your phone or the paperwork on your desk or the employee you can see goofing off in the next room.   Real listening requires focus,  which isn’t always an easy thing to accomplish.

Tip #2: Get It In Writing – Verbal communication is often vital in forming relationships,  but it can also be detrimental when it comes to a business collaboration.  When you’re discussing an order,  there’s often a lot of boxes that need to be checked to be sure both sides understand what’s expected. Putting things in writing,  either by using an order form, or by sending an e-mail summing up what was discussed,  helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding what was agreed.

Tip 3: Question – Often times customers won’t know exactly what they want and it will be your job to help them figure that out.   One of the best ways to do that is by asking questions.   Make sure your questions are specific and build on the answers you’ve gotten previously.   The goal behind your questions is to help your customer refine their request and hopefully eventually arrive at an understanding of what it is they want and what it is you can do for them.

Tip 4: Educate – While customers often don’t know exactly what they want,  they’re equally unlikely to understand exactly what it is you can do.   Part of your job is to teach them what is and isn’t possible when it comes to the decoration techniques you offer.   Some businesses do this by having a sample book or a sample wall.   Others will simply explain,  on a case by case basis,  why what the customer wants is or isn’t possible.  Some companies create Pinterest boards to showcase work they’ve done in the past and to help potential customers generate ideas.   The method used isn’t really important,  the goal is simply to help the customer understand what can and can’t be done.

Tip 5: Be Positive – We’ve all had the day when the phone has been ringing off the hook and everyone seems to be in a bad mood and we just want everyone to go away and leave us alone.  On a day like that,  it’s easy to answer the phone with a snarl,  or to be short with a customer who wants to discuss an order,  but that’s exactly what you need to avoid.  Work to keep every interaction you have with a customer positive,  be attentive and smile,  and give the impression you have all the time in the world for whatever customer interaction needs to occur.   At the bottom of it all,  customers are the people that keep all our businesses going, so they deserve our A game every time they interact with us.

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