Ten Tips to Communicate More Effectively with Customers
Effective customer communication is the cornerstone of any successful business. Dealer personnel who are able to consistently and effectively communicate with their customer base enjoy stronger relationships and increased sales success. However, in today’s world with the multitude of communication channels available – telephone, email, texting, instant messaging, etc. – key effective communication elements are sometimes lost. In order to maximize your ability to communicate with customers, remember these vital points.
1. Listen actively. Effective communication starts with being a good listener. Focus on what the customer is saying rather than formulating your response. Use body language or small phrases, such as nodding your head or saying, “I see” to demonstrate that you are paying attention. If you are with the customer, maintain eye contact. When the customer has finished talking, repeat what you think you heard to ensure you clearly understood their message before you respond.
2. Don’t interrupt. Interrupting your customers will not only upset them, but will limit your ability to communicate effectively. Allow the customer to finish his/her thought before you respond. It not only demonstrates respect, but it will also ensure you truly understand the point the customer is trying to make.
3. Use easy-to-understand words, not industry terms or jargon. Using phrases such as “Turnover” or “the Desk” may seem obvious to any automotive professional, but to a customer, you may as well be speaking gibberish. In order to effectively communicate, you need to use words and phrases that the customer will easily understand.
4. Use professional wording, not texting terms when communicating electronically. While you and all of your friends may easily understand acronyms like BTW (by the way) or TTYL (talk to you later), those terms may not be as obvious to a customer, thus leading to communication confusion. Using these terms can also make you seem unprofessional. As with industry terms and jargon, avoid using texting terms. Clearly write what you are trying to say.
5. Demonstrate courtesy. It’s very easy to ask questions in such a way that you command a customer’s response. For example, asking “VIN?” is less courteous than “Can I have your VIN please?” Although this seems like a simple change, asking questions in a polite and professional way go a long way towards demonstrating high-quality customer service.
6. Use positive, not negative statements. Customers want to hear what you can do to help them, rather than what you can’t do. The way you phrase things can directly impact their impression of you, your department and your dealership. Instead of saying, “I can’t give you your specific rate unless I run your credit,” say, “I can provide you with your specific rate if you allow me to run your credit.” By addressing your customer with positive rather than negative statements, you can greatly reduce the number of roadblocks you may encounter.
7. Be aware of words or phrases that can lead to a defensive reaction. You also want to be aware of phrases that might inadvertently create a defensive or resistant reaction from your customer. For example, avoid using the word “you” to often. Instead of saying, “You have to speak louder,” say, “I’m having a hard time hearing you.” By changing the words from “you” to “I”, you help keep the customer in a positive mindset and the communication channels flowing.
8. Limit background noise and distractions. Be aware of what’s going on around you when you communicate. Are there a lot of background noises or events happening nearby that might distract either you or the customer from fully focusing on the conversation? If you are in a noisy or busy area, move to a quieter location. Whether you are speaking with a customer on the phone or in person, being in a quiet location where you can focus will benefit you both.
9. Don’t underestimate the value of snail-mail. In today’s technology-driven world, it’s easy to discount the value of a handwritten note. However, writing a handwritten thank-you note, mailing follow-up letter or even sending the customer a birthday card goes a long way in strengthening your communication channel with a customer, and in turn, your relationship overall.
10. Ask the customer how THEY prefer to communicate. Finally and possibly, most importantly, ask the customer how they prefer to communicate. While you may prefer email, the customer might prefer text messages. Or the customer might have a limited texting plan on their phone, and actually get upset if you constantly bombard them with text messages. At the start of your relationship with each customer, take the time to ask, “What is the best way to stay in touch with you? Would you rather I call, email or text you?” This simple question can go a long way in helping you communicate more effectively with your customers.
Jul 1, 2014