Ever pull up to a fast food drive-thru and hear a discombobulated message that you know was supposed to be a welcome message followed by a request to take your order?
Then, once at the pick-up window, your bag of food is just about as incomprehensible as the message on the speaker.
Clearly, there is some sort of breakdown in the communication between the employee and the customer during this transaction.
Is it a bad set of headphones or faulty speaker? Perhaps. Could it be that the employee spoke too fast or unclearly? Or maybe the employee just wasn’t listening well as the order was being placed.
Whatever the reason, this communication or lack thereof, can and will affect a business over time. Good communication is premier to the success of a business. If a customer doesn’t feel valued, heard or understood, the business will suffer.
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So, whether you are a fast food joint or a small business selling widgets, strong communication skills are imperative. This is true internally and externally. Sales, marketing, and public relations efforts are all dependent on your employees’ ability to communicate well. This isn’t just expressing ideas coherently, it also requires the ability to listen to others and respond effectively.
According to the 2016 State of Small Business Report, 50 percent of small businesses plan to hire employees this year. That’s up 12 percent from 2015. When hiring said employees, businesses not only need to take a prospective employee’s credentials into consideration but also, how well they communicate.
Figure It Out Before You Make the Job Offer
Hiring strong and good communicators puts you ahead of the game. But just how do you know if they are good communicators when you only have a certain amount of time with them during an interview? Easy. By learning a few interviewing strategies and tactics, you can learn to weed out candidates that lack in communication skills.
Body language demonstrates how comfortable a person is in a professional setting, as well as how interested the person is in what you are saying and asking. Watch for great eye contact.
If a person can look you in the eye when you are speaking and when they are responding, you can tell they are truly interested in what is being discussed. It is also the mark of a good communicator; one that listens and seeks to understand, as well as one that commands the audience’s attention.
Ask specific questions that require in-depth answers that show their knowledge of your particular field. Then, make note of how they answer the question. Were they assertive, showing confidence? Or, were they passive and unclear? This will not only reveal their communication style but also their ability to do the job.
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Help Existing Employees Learn the Value of Good Communication
Gather your employees and communicate. Yes, communicate. Tell them what you want them to know. Explain how beneficial good communication can be to not only the bottom line but also their work environment. For one, good communication breaks the barrier of language and cultural differences in office and with global business deals.
By communicating effectively, employees and managers are a force to be reckoned with and have relationships based on trust. It also reduces in-office politics and helps employees concentrate on productivity.
To enable them with the right tools, it is important to do the following:
Provide communication training courses. Hire an outside consultant to do a workshop off-site. Take a half or full day for instruction, followed by a social event to show your employees you appreciate their willingness to learn.
Role play. Stage different scenarios between customers and employees that are likely to occur in your business. Have employees take turns critiquing those in the hot seat. Then, provide your own evaluation.
- Develop team building exercises. To strengthen intra-office communication and relationships, provide team building exercises for employees to do. It not only is a fun activity, but it also fosters cohesiveness.
Training videos. Don’t worry about purchasing expensive training videos. There are numerous online videos that cover everything you need. How to Improve Your Communication Skills in 3 Seconds promotes that three-second uncomfortable but necessary pause that shows you are listening. It also commands attention. An hour-long video workshop produced by Stanford Business School covers business spontaneous speaking, which is more prevalent that planned speaking. Instructed by Matt Abrahams, the presentation is titled Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques.
Provide best practices for email communication. Emailing is a whole other topic in and of itself. You cannot understand someone’s tone in an email. You may think the writer is angry, when in fact, they are not angry in the least. Email etiquette is very important in business communication, whether it is to someone down the hall from your office or across the country. Think twice before hitting send. Be polite. Get to the point and keep it brief. Answer questions asked of you, not just one or two. When in doubt, pick up the phone.
- Throw away the script. Being a small business, you have the opportunity to actually talk with your customers on a regular basis. Build the relationship by using their first name and thanking them for their business. If they have a problem, address it quickly and tell them what your solution is and how quickly they can expect it to be resolved. Always ask them if there is anything else that can be done to meet their satisfaction.
Once employees are trained, it is important to drive home what has been taught by providing employees with regular feedback concerning their communication styles. They only know what they know so if you aren’t pleased with the way they are communicating but say nothing, they think you are pleased. Include communication in annual employee reviews.
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Promote the most effective communicators to supervisory roles. Reward employees for outstanding communication such as an “I caught you communicating well,” award.
What next? Sit back and reap the benefits of employing good communicators.
Co-written by Stephanie Nichols.