You may be the best technical plumber in town, but you will earn poor reviews and bad word-of-mouth if you cannot communicate well. Here are nine simple steps you can take to improve your communication skills. Almost all of them are non-verbal.
1. Look neat
Every other year, the Service Nation Alliance surveys thousands of its members’ customers. Consistently, the most frequently mentioned consumer complaint about home service providers is poor grooming. To a homeowner, your appearance communicates your level of professionalism and your conscientiousness in the home.
If you look like a slob, you send the message that you are a hack. Send the message that you are the consummate professional by keeping your hair neat, shaving and looking sharp.
A big part of your appearance is your smile. Smiling sends the message that you are friendly and cheerful, which is what a stressed homeowner wants from a plumber on a service call. A bonus is that when you smile you actually will put yourself in a happier mood. Smile.
3. Stand up straight
If you slouch, you send the message that you’re bored and uninterested in the customer and her problem. On the other hand, when you stand up straight, you indicate interest and radiate confidence. Before exiting the truck, remind yourself to stand up straight when face-to-face with the customer.
4. Make eye contact
Eye contact is another element of communication. Remember the saying, “I won’t trust a person who won’t look me in the eye.” Never mind that the first thing a con man learns is how to look someone in the eye and lie to his face. People associate good eye contact with honesty and naturally distrust people who avoid it. Make eye contact, just don’t overdo it. Don’t stare.
5. Give feedback
When the customer is speaking, give feedback to indicate you are paying attention and following what she is saying. An easy way to do that is to nod a little. Your focus is on the customer. This sends the message that you consider what she is saying to be important.
6. Take notes
If you can, always take notes. First, by writing down what the customer is telling you, you minimize the chance of forgetting things later. You also retain the information better. More importantly, by taking notes you are further telling the customer that you consider what she’s saying to be important enough to write down. You are showing her that you are taking her concerns seriously.
Up to this point, all of your communication has been non-verbal. You may have picked up on what they customer considered important, but you may also have missed something. Or, the customer may have failed to communicate well. It is important to clarify what the customer has said. This can be handled simply by repeating back what the customer has told you. Say, “If I understand correctly, you are saying…” Or, “So let me repeat back what I heard you telling me…”
People associate good eye contact with honesty and naturally distrust people who avoid it. Make eye contact, just don’t overdo it. Don’t stare.
8. Beware of interference
In any communication, there is the potential for interference. This can come a child demanding his mother’s attention, a barking dog, a phone that keeps beeping or any number of things. Be careful of interference that is affecting your ability to pick up on what the customer is telling you, but also in reverse. If there are distractions, you might have to stop talking until the distractions can be handled. Then, start over.
9. Say thank you
When everything is done, close the communication process by thanking the customer. It is the courteous thing to do. It shows you appreciate the customer and their business.
Good communication does not require you to develop the salesmanship of Zig Ziglar or the speaking skills of Billy Graham. It is focusing on, and controlling the messages you are sending (non-verbal as well as verbal) and actively listening to the customer. Do these simple things consistently and watch your reviews and customer satisfaction scores improve.
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