Customer Experience News & Trends

7 customer communication rules that should be revisited

Business relationships are more threatened than enhanced by technology. Here’s why every customer experience professional needs to revisit some business communication rules.

Nearly everyone working in the customer experience industry — whether they’re new or vets or they come from a sales, service or marketing background — are guilty of communication etiquette faux pas these days. And it’s mostly because we’ve let mobile devices take a front seat in our communications with customers and colleagues.

“In business, relationships are built the old-fashioned way, by picking up the phone and checking on a client, for instance, or taking your boss to lunch to pick his brain about a new project,” says Ben Carpenter, author of The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Start a Business and Live a Happy Life.

We can’t just point fingers at the youngest generation of workers who’ve always had cell phones. Workers of all ages can be spotted texting throughout a business lunch.

Changes to make

So it might be time to revisit, reinstitute or just consciously observe these rules of workplace communication:

  1. Follow the leader. Do as others do with you. For example: If your boss consistently calls you into her office for a face-to-face exchange to assign tasks or get progress reports, make sure you connect face-to-face with her when you need to chat, even if you prefer IM. And if a customer regularly calls you with questions or to place orders, call the person back, even if you prefer email.
  2. Connect when it’s complex. Even when the boss or a customer prefers electronic communication, there are times a face-to-face meeting or a phone call is best for the relationship. When issues are complicated or sensitive, connect on a personal level.
  3. Make rounds. Everyone needs connections within their company and industry. Join your co-workers and colleagues on their coffee or lunch runs so you can have regular conversations with them — not just email and IM conversations. Leave your mobile device at your desk and network in person more often.
  4. Respond. Always. Because we use text so much in our personal lives, some people think phone calls and email are archaic. But they’re still the most prevalent communication tools in business — and they need immediate attention, too. Voice mail and email messages should never go a day without being returned. If you’re out of the office for an extended period, leave an out-of-office automated message with the date you’ll return.
  5. Be clear. If the speed and convenience of today’s communication tools has taught us anything, it’s the importance of being clear, brief and specific. Heck, Twitter only allows you 140 characters to get your point across. No matter the form of communication you use, get to the point first — what you need, what will happen next, etc. Then, back it up with information and/or explanations. Offer to give more details upon request.
  6. Think before you speak or type. With the speed of business communication, we all run the risk of sticking our feet in our mouths pretty often. It’s never proper business etiquette to be rude, emotional or downright mean. The wrong words can lead to the loss of respect and opportunities. Use kind words with the best intentions.
  7. Stop short of TMI. While you want to communicate with colleagues and customers, you don’t want to over-share. Your boss isn’t your buddy. Your customers aren’t your confidants. Communication with them should remain professional. For instance, you can share stories of what you did over the weekend — perhaps a camping trip — but you don’t need to describe the bars you visited or the hijinks that ensued.

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