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Communicating with Your Customers

by Jim Hartigan
March 5, 2012

Its midnight and your feverishly searching your e-mail archives looking for any e-mails from your client that would help you finish the project due at 9:00 a.m. the next morning. About this time the old but true adage, “Communication is key” starts repeating itself over and over. While it sounds cliché, there is a lot of truth in that statement. But how do you ensure that your communication is successful and you won’t be burning the midnight oils? Here are five guidelines we use at Orgwide to ensure that we hear what our clients are saying and that our projects meet and exceed their needs.

1.  Start with a good foundation.
In order to begin communicating with your customer, you must have a system in place. There must be a plan for your project. This includes defining the client’s needs, expectations, and scope on the front end. To do this, Orgwide uses a set of project management documents, designed to chart a projects course from the beginning to the end.

2.  Listen more, talk less.
You need to actively listen to your customers. Active listening helps you pay better attention to what your customer is saying so that you can find out how you can adapt your project to better meet their needs. Jotting down notes and ideas increases your active listening while also keeps you from interrupting you’re your client is saying. When it is appropriate, you can go back and cover those notes and ideas.

3.  Ask questions.
Asking questions ensures that you don’t make assumptions. Make it a practice to ask open-ended questions. Avoid asking closed-ended questions (questions that only require a yes/no answer) which just force you to seek clarification through more questions. Another type of question to avoid is the negative question. For example, if you ask “You don’t have any sample coursework to share?”, the customer may answer yes, which could mean yes, he does have coursework to share, or yes, he does not have coursework to share. This just creates confusion. A better way to ask that question is “Do you have any sample coursework to share?” After you ask your question, allow your client to speak and answer fully before you begin speaking again. This links back up to the ‘listen more, talk less’ step above. Finally, make sure you are asking all the questions – who, what, where, when, why, how – in order to cover all the angles.

4.  Make your communication count.
Your clients are busy people, so make the most of your time with them. Be organized when you meet with them by having a plan or an agenda for how you will spend your time together. Be sure to check with your team prior to a meeting to get an update on the project pieces and parts so you can share that information accurately with the client. Pre-plan any questions to ensure you walk away with the information you need.

5.  Golden Rule: The customer is always right.
Never forget that at the end of the day, the customer is always right. The customer has the final word on decisions and is the one paying for the project. We may give them our best professional opinion, and they may still make a different decision or choose a different way to do something. Regardless of what they decide, we should be supportive. Remember, we may not see the whole picture. Ultimately, our job is to support them and make their job easier.
By starting with a good foundation, actively listening, asking questions, making your communication count, and remembering that the customer is always right, your communication can be successful and meaningful. If you want to communicate more effectively with your customers, Call us or drop us a note to learn more.
Until next time, remember to take care of the customer, take care of each other, and take care of yourself.

About the Author:

Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim’s last position was that of Senior Vice President – Global Brand Services where he provided strategic leadership and business development and support to the $22B enterprise of 10 brands and more than 3,400 hotels in 80 countries around the world. His team was responsible for ensuring excellence in system product quality, customer satisfaction, market research, brand management, media planning, and sustainability.

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586

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