Effective communications : ‘Wise people talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something’

Communicating is something we all do all the time.  Yet we are often hopeless at it!  It is easy to ‘open our mouths and let our bellies rumble!’  It is harder to engage our brains and ears first before we communicate anything to anybody.

However we need to remember than even if we do not open our mouths we are communicating non-verbally by our facial expressions, our bodies, the way we stand, the way we wave our arms around and so on.

We cannot avoid communication and poor communication is costly to all businesses – it results in more accidents, mistakes, staff losses, equipment breakdowns, customer losses, relationship breakdown , loss of quality, loss of reputation, loss of $$$$.

Communication is the glue that holds the business together. No change is possible without it. Good communication has a direct link to profitability, productivity, individual satisfaction and business sustainability.

Effective communication requires us to listen without being distracted and to seek to understand the other party. All communication is 2 way – there is always a sender and receiver and the two need to relate well together in order for good communication to take place.

Good communication takes time and works best when there is a clear purpose – agreeing a job, clarifying a design, finalising a contract and so on.  It requires us to take an interest in the speaker.

Awesome communication requires us to have empathy – in other words to see things from the other person’s point of view; confidence and assertiveness; a real desire to communicate and an end goal – a clear picture of why the communication is taking place and what you and the other party want out of it.

In business we communicate in a range of ways – telephone, fax, text, email, face to face, Skype, mail etc.  We have a number of communication mechanisms – phone messages, emails, letters, business cards, brochures, our vehicles, our clothing, our marketing, invoices, feedback questionnaires, customer data bases, posters, websites, Facebook, you tube etc.

All our communication needs to be clear, current and concise.

All staff who communicate with other people (in other words, ALL staff and management) must be trained in effective communications. They need to be aware that tone and body language speak louder than words!

The initial communication between a potential new customer and your company has the potential to turn a customer on or off.  It needs to be friendly, professional, competent and encouraging. If it is an answer phone then make sure the message is clear and that you answer it quickly!  Make sure all your communication mechanisms – cards, brochures etc. – are up-to-date, relevant and customer focused.

Use every opportunity you can to communicate effectively with your customers and suppliers.  Send messages on your invoices; use newsletters and topical tips; keep a good customer data base; send messages on birthdays and anniversaries of when work was done; remember annual gas appliance service, septic tank maintenance etc.; always do follow up calls to confirm that everything is OK; ask for comments on your website or testimonials; ask satisfied customers for contact details of anyone else who might be interested in what you have to offer.

Effective communication is not an optional extra for any business.  You either set out to communicate effectively or you will do it in a mediocre manner that will almost certainly convey negative messages to your customers.  Poor communication will drive your customers into the arms of your competition and suppliers are likely to become indifferent and disinterested in you or your business!!

Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Chris Elphick is Director of Learn.fast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Vanuatu and other Pacific countries.  He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with Small & Medium Enterprises.  He works in Vanuatu as a mentor, coach and trainer.

If you have a business issue for Chris to comment on please contact him at [email protected]