Customer satisfaction is a leading reason why consumers choose to work or not to work with a business. Lack of respect or courtesy between your employee and customers can be detrimental to or even kill a sale. For the optimal customer experience, employers need to teach employees to implement compassionate communication. Respectful dialogue between employers, employees, and clients involves using language that encourages compassion. Both employers and employees need to implement four concepts in order to facilitate effective conversations with their customers to keep them coming back! Here are the four concepts on how to have better communication within your small business.
1. Observation. It is important for the customer to let the employee know how they interpret a given situation, and vice versa. Observations should be expressed objectively and honestly. It is imperative that employees avoid using evaluative language when explaining their observations in order to avoid coming off as accusatory towards the customer. An employee might say to a customer for instance, “I sent you an email with an update on the status of your account, but I never received a response from you.” This statement is factual and refrains from involving emotions. Employees need to be able to be honest with a customer, without letting their emotions affect their language. They also need to listen to the customer’s observations willingly, and respond with empathy and understanding.
2. Needs. Needs are shared desires that every person possesses. Both employees and clients have needs, and employees should therefore use needs as a way to relate to their customer. A need can be as simple as food, water, and shelter, or as profound as independence, dignity, and respect. For example, an employee can recognize that everyone shares the need to be understood and treated with respect. Once the employee recognizes that they share this need with the client, they will be more inclined to listen to the customer, and think about the situation from their perspective.
3. Feelings. When needs are not met they invoke feelings. Feelings are powerful sensations that employees need to identify. When a customer expresses their feelings, they are expressing that they had a need that the company did not fulfill. The employee therefore should work to understand the customer’s feelings and empathize with them in order to figure out what the customer needs are. A customer may tell an employee, “I’m feeling confused and excluded because your email was not written in language that I can understand”. The employee should recognize in this situation that the customer has needs to feel included, and that they should work to make their language more comprehensive for the customer. Feelings should not be seen as the beginning of an issue but as an opportunity to resolve an issue.
4. Requests. When employees use expressive or honest language, they should always follow it with a request. For example, an employee may be frustrated with a customer and say, “I was unable to finish your project because I did not have the right materials. Will you meet with me to discuss what should be included in the final product?” Employees should use requests to fulfill and directly address the client’s needs. Requests should be specific and should not involve any evaluative language. Employees can use requests as a way of moving forward with the client, and also to avoid further complications.
Teach your staff to pay attention to the four concepts of Compassionate Communication. The sooner they are comfortable with expressing openly to their clients and able to understand what they are feeling, they will be able to fulfill their needs and minimize future conflicts.
About the author: Rick Goodfriend has been teaching communication skills to business audiences at corporate events, trainings, and educational forums for over a decade. He is the author of the book “I Hear You But…” Mr. Goodfriend is also founder of World Empathy Day, designed to increase peaceful communication, connection with self and others, forgiveness and acceptance.
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