Communicating Effectively with Your Clients

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Have you ever dealt with a business owner who seems to speak a different language? Or one that appears disinterested or distracted? Have you continued to work with these businesses, or did you end up giving that business to another company?

The way you communicate with your customers and potential customers can have a huge impact on your customer retention and growth. Customers want to feel comfortable when meeting with you and they need to be able to understand what you’re telling them without having to resort to looking words up in a specialized dictionary.

Here are some tips to improve your customer communications:

Replace jargon with common phrases. An example from the accounting world might be the phrase “I need a list of your company’s qualifying SR&ED; expenses for ITC purposes”. What a daunting concept. Even if it is translated afterwards, the use of jargon distances accountant and client. It can be difficult to think in layman’s terms especially if all your reading and research is formal, but learn to translate technical terms into plain language. Big words won’t impress your customers, it will only scare them.

Echo back your customers’ words to them. A common customer complaint is that they are not being listened to. Think back to a time when you have tried to purchase an item from a store and the clerk was distracted, perhaps talking to another clerk or doing other work. It most likely made you feel unimportant to the business, which is not a good impression to be left with when you’re in the process of handing your money over. Disinterest is often a misperception, but if you frequently leaf through files or type on your BlackBerry when dealing with your customers, it gives the impression that you’re inattentive. Make direct eye contact when your customers are talking and repeat back to them their questions, both to enforce the impression that you are attentive and also to ensure that you truly understand the question. Start with, “What I hear you saying is…is that right?”

Speak slowly and clearly. In the upcoming week, be mindful of the way business owners speak to you as a customer. Do they rush through each customer interaction? Are you left feeling as if you’d look silly if you asked the person to repeat what they just said? Take what you learn about communicating and apply it to your own customer interactions. Make sure you are speaking slowly and clearly. Your level of comfort in dealing with your customers is displayed in the way you talk, so make sure you are projecting confidence and friendliness. If the language you do business in is not your primary language, it’s even more important to make sure that your customers can understand you.

Give your customers context when explaining technical concepts. Some of your explanations to your customers might be very theoretical and could be difficult for customers to grasp. For example, if you are a lawyer and you are trying to explain the process of probate to your clients, it is most likely beyond their normal range of experience and may be hard for them to apply it to their particular situation. Enhance your explanations with examples and anecdotes. It will help solidify the discussion for your customers.

Put it in writing. A good way to solidify your customers’ understanding of what you are telling them is to put important information in writing for them. That way, they can ensure that what they understood from your conversation is really what you were trying to say. Not only will it help your customers, it will save you time that you would otherwise have spent on the phone clarifying what you have previously told your customers.

Communicating effectively with your customers is a skill that can be learned and improved upon by all businesses and it can have a huge impact on your bottom line.

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