In Praise of Quieter Communications
Four touch points when it pays to dial-down your approach
In a world of TV ads that blare, emails that SHOUT IN ALL CAPS, and employees who talk when they should listen, consider the advantages of making your customer communications quieter. Here are four touch points I share in my seminars when a strong/silent approach will differentiate you positively in your customers’ hearts and wallets.
1. When establishing rapport
You’ve likely heard about the importance of elevator pitches. The idea is that within the first few minutes, you should give your potential customer a synopsis of what you do and what makes you wonderful. The fatal flaw in this strategy is these scripts generally sound so contrived that they’re more off-putting than endearing – exactly the opposite if what’s intended.
Instead, begin establishing trust by focusing on the positive things you discovered about the person prior to your meeting. For example, “I noticed on your website that…” “I was reading on your LinkedIn profile that you attended school at…” “Congratulations on…” Talking about yourself is obtrusive. Focusing on the other person is fascinating.
2. When identifying customer needs
When friends tells us about their latest news, needs, or concerns, we often listen while mentally comparing and waiting to share a similar situation or feeling. While that may be OK when listening to a buddy, it’s not so good with customers. Instead of listening like a friend, listen critically as a trusted advisor. Don’t interrupt to compare their experience to yours. Rather, ask more questions about why this area is important and the consequences of this need remaining unfulfilled.
Then, when the customer has thoroughly explained their situation, paraphrase your understanding by beginning with the two words, “Sounds like…” Starting your response with sounds like ensures your customer views you as someone who truly understands their unique needs. You don’t generate trust by being thought of as a smooth talker. Trust comes when you’re considered to be a strong listener.
3. When giving input
Perhaps you’ve had a family member or distant relative try to help you with a statement like, “You know what your problem is…?” Or “What you should do is…” As you’ve likely experienced, some folks are overly free with their advice about steps we should take to improve our lives. Chances are, these self-proclaimed experts are well meaning. It’s just the way they’re giving advice often makes us tune them out because we don’t want to be pushed.
Similarly, when you’re giving input to customers, certain phrases only serve to get in people’s faces. Common phrases to avoid: “You should…” “I recommend…” “You need to…” Instead, a less intrusive yet more powerful way of giving input to a customer is to offer, “Knowing your situation, here’s what I’d suggest…” The key is you are basing your input on what the customer has told you; not on your personal biases or agenda. And you’ve ended your statement with the word, ‘suggest’. That allows the other person to feel like they are choosing the course of action; not being forced.
4. When breaking bad news
As a customer yourself, any time you’ve been frustrated with an organization, the last person you want to deal with is an employee who’s too perky. It’s as though they are blissfully ignorant of how bad the experience has been for you thus far. That’s why in my seminars when we talk about earning trust with stressed customers, I remind people about the importance of toning it down – literally. When you need to inform a customer about a delay, increased fee, or quality issue, lower your tone of voice slightly to convey that you are rational and serious; not insensitive or dismissive.
Bottom Line… Claude Debussy said that music is the space between the notes. In a marketplace where it seems that people are shouting to be noticed, consider dialing the volume down so that your customers can actually absorb your message. Chances are they’ll reward you for your quiet confidence.