Impressing your customers is easier said than done. These five guidelines will ensure your clients’ needs are satisfied every time.
It’s midnight and you’re feverishly searching your email archives looking for any emails from your client that would help you finish the project due at 9 a.m. the next morning. About this time the old, albeit true, adage, “Communication is key” starts repeating itself over and over.
While it sounds cliché, there is a lot of truth in that statement. But how do you ensure your communication is successful so you won’t be burning the midnight oils? Here are five guidelines to ensure we hear what our clients are saying and that our projects meet and exceed their needs.
1. Start with a good foundation.
In order to begin communicating with your customer, you must have a system in place. There must be a plan for your project. This includes defining the client’s needs, expectations and scope on the front end. At Orgwide, we use a set of project management documents, designed to chart a project’s course from beginning to end.
2. Listen more, talk less.
You need to actively listen to your customers. Active listening helps you pay better attention to what your customer is saying so you can find out how you can adapt your project to better meet their needs. Jotting down notes and ideas increases your active listening while also keeps you from interrupting your client. When it is appropriate, you can go back and cover those notes and ideas.
3. Ask questions.
Asking questions ensures you don’t make assumptions. Make it a practice to ask open-ended questions. Avoid asking closed-ended questions (questions that only require a yes or no answer), which just force you to seek clarification through more questions. Avoid negative questions, as well. For example, if you ask, “You don’t have any sample coursework to share?” the customer might answer yes, which could mean yes, he does have coursework to share, or yes, he does not have coursework to share. This creates confusion. A better way to ask that question is, “Do you have any sample coursework to share?” After you ask your question, allow your client to speak and answer fully before you begin speaking again. This links back up to the “listen more, talk less” step above. Finally, ensure you are asking all the questions—who, what, where, when, why, how—to cover all the angles.
4. Make your communication count.
Your clients are busy people, so make the most of your time with them. Be organized when you meet with them by having a plan or an agenda for how you will spend your time together. Be sure to check with your team before a meeting to get an update on the project pieces and parts so you can share that information accurately with the client. Preplan any questions to ensure you walk away with the information you need.
5. Golden Rule: The customer is always right.
Never forget that at the end of the day, the customer is always right. The customer has the final word on decisions and is the one paying for the project. We might give them our best professional opinion, and they might still make a different decision or choose a different way to do something. Regardless of what they decide, we should be supportive. Remember, we might not see the whole picture. Ultimately, our job is to support them and make their job easier.
By starting with a good foundation, actively listening, asking questions, making your communication count and remembering the customer is always right, your communication can be successful and meaningful.
Until next time, remember: Take care of the customer, take care of each other and take care of yourself.
Jim Hartigan, chief business development Officer and partner joined OrgWide Services, a learning, communications, surveys and consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim brings to OrgWide a reputation for driving change through improved business processes and developing comprehensive strategies that streamline operations, drive brand awareness and preference, and increase customer satisfaction.
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