Improve communication in your small business and watch your team and customers thrive.
Good communication is the foundation of any business. Your customers, vendors, and employees need to know that you can be trusted in order to develop the most productive relationships possible.
In an oft-cited study, “The Cost of Poor Communications,” Executive Coach David Grossman reports that a survey of 1,000 large companies showed losses of $62.4 million per company per year due to faulty communication.
These losses are huge and easily avoided! You don’t have to be part of the Fortune 500 to recognize the importance of good communication. You may have heard the word “transparency” more than a few times in recent years. It’s a hot business buzzword that smart companies are talking about more and more—and for good reason.
Entrepreneur.com reports “Employees put a high premium on transparency in their interactions with different levels of management, going as far as naming it the top factor in determining their happiness and satisfaction in the workplace.”
Cultivate Transparency Internally to Build Trust
The effort towards transparency and openness begins with you. It is up to you to create a work environment where individuals feel supported enough to build genuine connections.
The main way to achieve this is through open and authentic communication. This way, all employees understand the company’s mission and how exactly they fit into it.
Judith Glaser, the author of the book “Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results,” puts it this way: “To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations. Everything happens through conversations.”
The goal of any business, Glaser explains, is to move from basic “transactional conversation”—simply asking or telling people to do things—to “transformational conversation,” which allows people to share thoughts in a safe, judgment-free space.
Your employees need to feel empowered to speak openly. That way, they can volunteer suggestions and innovations that can drive your company to new levels of productivity and success. Tools that can help you achieve a more productive communication style include listening without judgment, asking questions for which you don’t have answers, and probing employees for more information when they express their ideas.
Evaluate Your Customer Experience
You also need to be thinking about external communication with customers and other stakeholders in your business. Think about developing a strong omnichannel support system for your customers. Ensure that you are creating the best customer experience possible and that messages are consistent across platforms, including telephone, web, chat and social media.
Ask a friend or outside professional to engage with the company through each of these channels. Compare your company’s performance and customer experience across them.
Is your brand message consistent regardless of how customers are interacting with you? Is navigating your website or phone system intuitive and hassle-free? Do most inquiries get resolved on the first try without excessive hold times or transfers?
Dig even further to get a handle on the nuanced impressions of your business too. What did the business’s brand and image relay to your testers? Did they feel positive about doing business with you? Once you have done your due diligence, you can more easily go after the areas needing improvement.
Focus on That First Impression
The majority of serious inquiries will still come to you by phone. So, it’s essential to look closely at areas where you could lose callers. These customers want answers in a hurry. They may not be willing to wait for a 24-hour email response or even a return phone call.
Your company might not be able to afford the luxury of a full-time receptionist. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to consider a virtual receptionist.
They will provide the immediacy these motivated customers crave. Although these virtual receptionists work off-site, they provide the seamless experience your callers are looking for—a live caller who answers the phone quickly and consistently, listens to them carefully and provides a clear “next step” in the process.
If a customer lead encounters a less-than-optimal initial phone experience, there is no doubt they will begin to question your business as a whole.
This could occur if the employee wasn’t trained properly in phone etiquette. If the employee overwhelmed with other work and can’t totally focus on the caller, or if the call simply goes unanswered and reverts to voicemail, this can happen as well.
A top-notch virtual receptionist will not just direct calls and convey messages—they can help your business become more productive by prioritizing leads, scheduling calls and meetings, and dispersing basic information.
With a virtual receptionist, you minimize the chance of losing those phone calls from possible leads that grow so frustrated by a poor initial experience that they take their business elsewhere.
Keep It Real
Communication rules so many aspects of your business. It needs to move to the top of your priority list as a small business owner. Rather than settling for the status quo, continue to think about the point of view of others.
This is crucial whether they are vendors you see twice a year or your most valued client or employee. Your communication abilities are a work in progress, needing constant evaluation and modification as circumstances change. By sharpening your focus here and making changes, your business can only benefit.