Susan Scott has built a career helping people talk to each other. REALLY talk to each other. Whether it’s understanding the impact of words or tackling the topics people generally want to avoid, her “Fierce Conversations” content is unbelievably impactful for life and at work (basically anywhere people are). And after reading her book on conversations, I’ve really been thinking about how these lessons could be used by businesses to have more meaningful and useful interactions with their customers. The customer service experience is all about relationships and if an organization can have intent and meaning behind every touch point with those that use their service or product, how much better would those experiences be? Hint: A lot.
Here are five points I pulled from Susan’s book, that would come in really handy for engaging with customers:
1) Ground Status vs Official Status – what is said versus what is true. Are you being truly transparent with your customers or are you feeding them messaging? Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have common answers to frequent questions and concerns, but if something is going wrong, your customers know when you’re feeding them a line. Nobody loves corporate speak and it doesn’t do anything for building relationships with people. Open and honest conversation will not only help that interaction, it’ll also really highlight for your organization and for your staff where the problems are that you need to fix. It’s hard to pretend they don’t exist when you say them out loud.
2) Stump Speech: know your values, and your organizations – do you know your company’s vision, mission and goals? Do they align with your values? Can you see yourself in them as an employee? Your “stump speech”, as Susan Scott calls it, is the bedrock from which all decisions and intent come from. You and your company need to know “this is where I’m going, this is why we’re going there, this is who is going with us, this is how we’re going to get there.” If your customers know your values, see it reflected in your staff, it’ll give them something to emotionally hook on to…that’s where loyalty and relationships live.
3) In every conversation, listen for more than content. Listen for emotion and intent as well – every interaction with your customers, in person, on the phone or online, has a set of layers to them. Sure you hear the words coming out of their mouth or see the words on the screen, but what isn’t said? Non-verbal cues are huge when it comes to better understanding people. Short sentences. Long pauses between typing. Tense body language. Situations can be a lot more or less serious than we think based on these nonverbal parts. According to studies by UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian, body language accounts for 55% of a first impression; 38% comes from tone of voice; 7% comes from our actual words. That’s a lot of information that you might be missing out on.
4) The problem named is the problem solved – In your customer conversations, be sure you’re getting to the root of the problem that the customer is looking to solve. The best way to do that is to say it out loud. It’s a really great way to make sure you both understand the challenge you’re trying to address so there isn’t any confusion. It’ll help the employee from assuming what the problem is and for the customer to understand when his/her concern is resolved. Win/win.
5) Going into conversations with purpose – Know why your company is talking to its customers. In every interaction, there should be a purpose. A destination. Know where you want to take the conversation, because the words you choose, what you’ll listen for, where you’ll bend, will all be easier to do if there’s an end goal. Your CEO, and every level of your organization, should all have purposeful conversations, with each other, businesses they work with and their customers. It’ll save everyone time from getting off track, and build better connections for everyone involved.
Be fierce in your conversations, your customers will thank you for it.