How to communicate effectively in the workplace
Keep projects moving smoothly, better serve customers, and build credibility.
Efficient communication is crucial at work to ensure that things go smoothly. When thinking about ways to better serve customers, take time to review and evaluate your communication practices.
Effective Communication Practices
Building credibility and trust from the beginning is important. How can we win over our colleagues/customers and build a healthy communication for a successful business relationship? To answer that question, we’ve put together this list of best practices based on a classic book from the business world, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Carnegie’s non-fiction book, even 81 years after being published, still appears on the bestsellers list for USA Today and audiobook downloads. Dale Carnegie teaches readers certain techniques that are necessary for interacting with others and gives advice on being a leader, handling people and getting others to like you. This book is useful for anyone wishing to improve their communication skills and success at work.
See Also: How to Build a Great Company Culture like Google
Communication Best Practices from How to Win Friends & Influence People
We’ve highlighted some of the most helpful best practices from Dale Carnegie. Note: This is simply a recap of his principles, but we strongly encourage that you pick up his book, read through each principle, and see how you can apply them to your business.
A. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
Principle A1: “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain”
- Instead of jumping to conclusions, let’s try to understand people.
- Figure out why people do what they do. Insight is more profitable than criticism, and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.
- Remember that you’re dealing with people who have emotions.
Seeking understanding should be the first priority. Heather Carlton, Geotab Partner Account Manager says, “It’s important to take the necessary time to understand your customer more and their business needs, etc. Ask questions until the matter is clearly understood by both parties.” Read Heather's blog post: Creating a Positive Culture for Fleets with Telematics
Principle A2: “Give honest and sincere appreciation”
- We must remember that one of the two motives driving people is the desire to be great.
- How often do we provide this kind of sincere appreciation towards our children, friends, employees, colleagues, customers?
- Note: There is a clear difference between appreciation and flattery (one is sincere and the other insincere).
Look for ways to show appreciation. It could start with simple acts such as saying “thank you” or giving credit where credit is due. Geotab has the STAR program, where our internal team members are encouraged to submit a “STAR” recognition for a colleague that goes above and beyond and has embraced one of Geotab’s core company values.
B. Six Ways to Make People Like You
Principle B1: “Become genuinely interested in other people”
- If we want to create loyalty with our customers, let’s do things for other people that are unselfish and thoughtful.
- Be nice and treat others with respect no matter what role/position that person holds within a company. Do you greet everyone with enthusiasm or only those you are scheduled to meet? Carnegie provides countless business examples of how applying this principle has helped him and his students win over business accounts.
- Show genuine interest in others, remember people's birthdays and interests that they have shared (take notes).
Laurie Sehl, Geotab Partner Account Manager, agrees: “We have to remember to show them that we genuinely care, and want to help them achieve their goals. Having a true understanding of our customers and knowing what challenges they are trying to solve allows us to become a better all-around partner to the customer.
If you are supporting a customer, point out areas of opportunity to become more efficient or find cost savings.
Principle B3: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”
- The attention and effort we put in remembering someone’s name and using it in interactions with that customer can go a long way! It can also make a lasting impression.
- Next time you respond to an email, ensure you are addressing the right person and that their name is spelled correctly. If you’re on a call or meeting in person, let’s also make sure we are pronouncing the name correctly.
Do you have trouble remembering names? Here are some tricks. When you hear a name, repeat it. Make it a habit to learn the names of people you meet. Stay focused. Don’t give in to the temptation and look at your phone or let your mind wander when you are talking with someone.
Principle B4: “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.”
- Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them.
- Customers (and people in general) are more interested in their wants and problems than they are in us and our problems.
- Let’s also remember to listen attentively, not to interrupt, and to allow our customers to talk out their problems without trying to jump in and intervene mid-thought.
“Listening is key. What do our mutual end users want? Let’s not assume that we know what they want,” says Carlton. Oftentimes, messages can get muddled over email. There’s value in getting together in person. Carlton believes that “getting everybody in one room (even if it’s a web conference call), to hash it out, is helpful to understanding all viewpoints.”
Advice from Sehl: “Take a consultative approach. Dive deeper into the subject by allowing the Reseller to talk until completely finished, versus asking questions right away, or assuming, or providing a quick solution without fully understanding the root of the problem.”
Principle B5: “Talk in terms of the other person’s interest”
- If you are going to ask for someone’s collaboration, don’t begin by talking about what you want. Begin by talking about the other person’s interest and work your way into your message.
- The following Support Call scenario involves a frustrated end user and shows how the customer service representative applied this principle to achieve a satisfactory end result.
Support Call Example:
- Customer: Hello . . . I think something is wrong with my device. Maybe you can troubleshoot something on your end?
- Rep: Okay, while I’m looking into this… how’s your day going?
- Customer: Good, thanks for asking. How about you? (Customer became really at ease, the rapport was back and forth, anyone listening to the conversation would guess that they are two friends having a pleasant chat over how to determine what the issue is.) (Customer expressed how this is not the first time this had happened and that it is a little annoying to have to deal with this again.)
- Rep: I’m so sorry to hear that. That does sound frustrating. I’ll do my best to make sure that everything is taken care of immediately.
- Customer: “You’ve been great, I appreciate the assistance…” (The call ended in laughs and pleasant casual conversation about the rapport they had built into the conversation earlier about the weather.)
Principle B6: “Make the other person feel important -- and do it sincerely.”
- As Dale Carnegie says, there is one all-important law of human conduct, and if we abide by it, we will be blessed with countless friends and constant happiness. The law is this: Always make the other person feel important.
- William James said: “The Deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
- Brings us to reflect, how are we doing in this area? Are we demonstrating our appreciation towards our fellow co-workers? Our clients? Our sales team? Our spouses, family, friends?
Carlton understands and applies this principle while adding: “Building trust makes it possible for the customer to open up and voice their true reasoning, perspective, feedback, and pain points.” Following up on a call with an email that details next steps, or points covered, shows that you were listening and are committed to following through.
“Face to face interaction is always a great benefit, but is not always possible or necessary, hence phone calls and well-written emails can be really effective. The key is for regular touch points.” She also notes: “Be proactive: foresee events, resources, tools.” As an example, reminding them of an upcoming training session or forwarding a helpful guide.
While I’m sure this is nothing new, it’s good to circle back to these basic principles now and then as a refresher. As we’ve all heard: “Common sense is not so common.” By practicing conscious, thoughtful communication, you are on the path to a strong, customer relationship.
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Reading List: How to Communicate Effectively at Work
- Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Jon Gordon, The 7 C's to Build a Winning a Team
- Paul Tsika - Audios on Leadership
- John Maxwell books on Leadership
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