For our TrustED Conf 2021 VR World Tour, we heard from Leticia Eroles Palacio, an Account Manager with over 10 years of experience across different countries developing and implementing digital strategies for well-known companies. We got key insights on how to effectively communicate and connect with clients and teammates.
Key insights on how to effectively communicate and connect with clients and teammates
“Communication skills had the fastest growing demand of any skill set in Australia, with an average increase in demand of 15.7% every year from 2009 to 2016.”
According to the CSIRO (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) which is an Australian Government agency responsible for scientific research, communications skills have had the fastest growing demand of any skillset in Australia, with an average increase in demand of 15.7% every year from 2009 to 2016.
What is effective communication?
Effective communication is a process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, knowledge, and information such that the purpose or intention is fulfilled in the best possible manner.
Basically, effective communication is two-way communication, which is essential in the business world. It’s the process of understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. It also means you are able to listen, understand, and take action on what other people say.
Nurture or nature?
There are few individuals that we can say were born as natural communicators. But for most individuals, communication skills are normally acquired by nurture.
You probably remember not just some of the greatest leaders in history such as Martin Luther King or Gandhi, but their famous speeches or messages that made them recognised as great communicators. Both of them had to work a lot on their communication with principles and techniques.
Workplace communication statistics
- 39% of businesses primarily use email for communication between co-workers, compared to online tools (28%) face-to-face (23%) and phone calls (2%)
- The communication and collaboration tools market reached $47 billion in 2019
- Organisations with connected employees show productivity increases of 20-25%
- 97% of workers believe that communication impacts tasks every day
Why is workplace communication so important?
What we’re going to see today is how we can all benefit from some techniques that will help us not just achieve an effective way of communicating but also to keep in mind that what you really want to communicate is what you actually communicate, and very important too: it is also what the other person interprets.
1. Think It Through
There are 5 questions we can ask ourselves:
- Why am I communicating? – what’s the purpose of what I am going to say?
- Who is the receiver? – is it a team member from my own stream? Is it Finance? Is it Operations? etc.
- What is my objective? (it could be informed, participation, permission, connection)
- What do you want the recipient to do as a result of the communication? (send an email for approval, complete an assigned task?). What’s the action required from your communication?
- What format will best accomplish your objective? (document, email, a call, etc.)
2. Make It Simple
Make it simple. Be brief, to the point, and balance brevity with a human touch. We are all very busy and our time is precious.
- No beating around the bush
- Leading with your main point or objective
- Time is precious for everyone
3. Quality First
If we’re seeking effective communication, then let’s be organised and communicate effectively before we start the conversation.
- Send agendas
- Meeting objectives
- Background reading
4. Knowledge Sharing
Here’s an example of a conversation between two peers. Akmar is the software developer engineer and Nigel is not an engineer. Let me read you an example of the conversation:
Akmar: I believe we can secure our user password using an algorithm.
Nigel: I see, what algorithm will we use?
Akmar: We’ll use bcrypt, are you aware of it?
Nigel: No, what exactly is?… then it goes further until Nigel understands Akmar’s point.
Even though the conversation appears to be lengthy, it is still considered effective communication because the speaker (Akmar) is able to communicate with the listener (Nigel), and the message is understood by the listener. Just because a conversation isn’t brief, doesn’t mean that it’s ineffective.
On the other hand, asking questions to be sure that the receiver understands the message is key.
5. The power of the in-person
A lot can be misinterpreted in the flat space of text without additional cues like tone of voice or facial expression. Sometimes, communication is easier to be managed through a quick chat on Zoom establishing a better connection and shared understanding while giving others a chance to surface areas of misalignment.
- Zoom vs Slack
- Call vs Text
- 50 % of emails and texts are misunderstood
6. Seek feedback
A good way of creating elaborate and constructive feedback is to think about the model GROW, developed in the 1980s by business coaches Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore.
Provide specific suggestions:
Did you know that the average person talks at around 225 words per minute, whereas we can listen to up to 500 words per minute? So our minds are basically filling those 275 words.
One of the most important skills we could always develop is to listen. Calvin Coolidge (the 30th President of the US) said it very clearly: No man ever listened out of a job.
We can all benefit from these 7 steps and acquire:
- Better engagement. Working on our communication skills creates better communication which results in greater employee engagement, which is a key metric of employee productivity.
- Increased morale and creativity. Effective communication among team members also encourages the flow of new ideas.
- When you understand your assigned role and the other members of the team understand that as well, there’s less ambiguity.
- Psychologists have found that unless people understand the “why” of a concept, they will be less likely to understand or remember it. This approach can help you be motivated and engaged in a conversation.
- Stronger teamwork. Effective communication allows team members to keep each other accountable.
- It ensures better decision-making, intensifies public relations and enhances problem-solving ability.
Effective ways of communicating with clients
By enhancing effective communication with the client we see several big benefits to the Company. We don’t just solve communication gaps, but it also allows us to keep our projects on track and budget efficiently. Better communication prevents misunderstandings that costs money to the business. It can also make our customers happier, so it’s a win-win situation.
1. Follow The 3 C’s
- Clear: Communicate important factors such as progress status, deadline, costing, etc, indefinite terms. Avoid terms like, “almost”, “perhaps”, “numerous” – as they lead to confusion.
- Concise. Keep client conversations agenda-based. Hold discussions that matter right now and plan when to discuss what. Trying to fit too much in a single conversation can backfire.
- Contextualisation. Be aware of how certain information will be received by the client. Pay attention to the context of the agenda in hand, and to who it is being reported.
2. Don’t assume
Makes an ASS OUT of U AND ME
Assumption sets us up for failure. It might be the case that sometimes there’s a misunderstanding between client and agency. We deliver what we think they want, and suddenly there’s a problem, hours and hours of work along the wrong path, wasted time and potential.
3. Ask the right questions
Ask not just questions but the right questions.
- Avoid rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question. They are typically asked in order to make a point rather than to obtain an answer. Such questions are not really questions but are designed to force someone into a specific response. This gets you nowhere when trying to resolve any doubts with a client.
- Ask open-ended questions. Start with who, what, when, where, why, and how. Imagine you want to break the ice with a client and you ask a question like ‘Are you busy?’. The answer will be YES, I am busy. Or NO, I am not busy. How about something like: How’s your business? Have there been any changes since we last spoke? – This will get you a much more interesting answer and the recipient will also feel that you are engaging.
- Avoid being too direct. Even if you are trying to get a specific answer, being too direct and too specific can lead to rigid answers. Instead of, “Should we advertise product A or B?” why not ask, “What product is your targeting audience asking for at the moment?”
4. Establish a human connection
- We can be informal and still be professional. Ultimately we’re one person talking to another and reminding a client they’re dealing with a human being helps break down a barrier.
- Enhancing customer communications includes making meaningful connections with our clients.
- As specialists in digital marketing, working in a remote workplace, we know more than anyone else that as the world is turning to artificial intelligence, VR, and streamlining processes, there’s the need of emphasising the client above everything else.
5. Speak the same language
As a specialist in any of the areas of digital marketing, one of the most important soft skills we’ll need is communication. By perfecting our communication skills and making them more effective, especially when speaking with non-tech clients, we’ll be able to take our career to the next level. This could also be applied with peers, as I mentioned earlier.
6. Become a better listener
There is an old adage that says one should seek to understand before seeking to be understood. In other words, we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason — because we need to listen twice as much as we speak.
- A simple and straightforward tip for better communication with our clients: If you want to be a better listener, stop focusing on what you’ll say next.
- If we are having a conversation and we think about a question we want to ask next, but the other person keeps talking. By the time you want to ask that question, it might not be relevant anymore, or it might be already answered. But how do we know? We don’t, because we stopped listening and focused on what we wanted to say next.
Benefits of communicating with clients
- Building trust. Communicating to the client our availability is crucial so that they can understand when they can get hold of us. This will instill confidence in the client, showing them we are aware of their needs.
- Prevent misunderstanding and future problems. Effective communication like being transparent and other components I mentioned earlier will prevent a lot of headaches.
- Clarified client’s expectations. In a remote workplace where we all work, it’s more important than ever to clarify information with the client. Miscommunication costs money and it could cause a rift between the client and the company.
- Increase loyalty. It’s more affordable to sell to existing clients; boost the lifetime value per client with better communication that keeps them on board.
- Generates a positive reputation for the Company. The communication manner indicates our proficiency and builds not just our own reputation, but the reputation of the Company.