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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Effective communication creates level of trust, happy customers

Eleanor Katzele

There is a local auto parts shop that I visited last year because it was on my way home. A police officer had pulled me over; I needed to replace a headlight.

I walked into this shop with no preconceived notions, and had marvelous customer service.

The moment I opened the door, both of the employees looked up from what they were doing, made eye contact, and said “Hello!” with a smile. I went to the counter and an employee asked how he could help me. I explained my quest for headlights.

He asked me several questions to find exactly what I needed, kept eye contact, made appropriate light banter in between questions, and walked with me over to the spot on the wall to help me find the right replacement.

I’ve since returned for multiple items, including wiper blades. An employee actually walked out to my car and replaced the old ones.

Every time I go into this store I am greeted in the same friendly manner. They have earned my business for life.

Of the 5,000 complaints we receive at the BBB every year, 95 percent occur because of a communication breakdown.

Often the complaint could have been resolved without involving the BBB, had the business just taken the time to openly communicate with the customer. Even when the business can’t do what the customer wants, just choosing to respond to their requests can often de-escalate the issue.

Recently I stumbled across a story giving the basics of communication – the top 10 tips for effective communication by John Heckers. Here are just a few of the key points I found helpful.

• Listen. It has been estimated that we begin formulating a response when we have heard less than 15 percent of what someone else has to say. This means that our responses are often geared only to that small percentage of what the other person is trying to communicate. Quiet both your mind and your mouth and listen to what the other person is saying before replying. Then reply to the whole statement, not just a fraction of it.

• Don’t withhold. Holding back information is another way to make someone question whether they can trust you.

• Be courteous. When someone calls or asks a question, do not respond with an irritated “yeah,” a grunt, or worse yet, silence.

• Watch body language. If your head is shaking “no” while you’re telling a customer how great they are, your body is betraying your true feelings.

• Don’t use jargon. It separates people and confuses communication. I’m especially contemptuous of “business buzzwords” that fly around companies. English is a very rich language. There is no need to mangle it with jargon.

• Don’t evade. Answer a question with direct information. Sooner or later the answer will be found out anyway. If you don’t answer directly you’re just adding one more reason for the questioner to be angry with you.

There are many communication courses offered through various teaching and consulting institutions. It is well worth the investment to learn better communication skills.

Make the effort to communicate; you just may earn a few more lifetime customers in the process.