Communications Advice Article

Improve your interpersonal communication skills for better customer satisfaction

Effective interpersonal communication is a key factor in customer satisfaction. Being aware of the signals you send to existing and potential clients, in addition to communicating your message clearly, go a long way toward building solid relationships with customers. Here are some tips for freshening up your interpersonal communication abilities.

Open the door to two-way conversation.

Encourage the client to ask questions and answer them in an approachable, yet professional tone. Ask appropriate questions yourself, being sure to phrase them so that they cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Avoid making the customer feel “interrogated” by giving them time to respond to questions without cutting them off or interrupting.

Control your body language.

Nothing stifles a legitimate, valuable back-and-forth discussion like negative body language. Customers may pull back if you appear bored, standoffish or overwhelmed. Maintain a relaxed posture with your hands at your sides, if possible. Smile and nod when appropriate to indicate that you are listening and interested.

Play to their strengths.

Consider the customer’s observed strengths and weaknesses, and cater your communications to them. If the client seems quiet or a bit shy, lead the conversation and gently encourage their participation by asking specific questions. If the client is “strictly business” and not responding to small talk, keep your rapport professional and purposeful.

Confirm your understanding.

Paraphrase what you heard back to the speaker to ensure you both agree on what is expected. This is crucial to making sure that everyone is on the same page regarding everything from design to deadline to price.

Keep your emotions in check.

Don’t be thrown off by words that affect you emotionally. Continue to listen even when you feel the urge to “defend” yourself. Clients are often either unaware of how their words come off or are in an agitated state. In both situations, you won’t “win” any argument that ensues. Maintain your composure and offer reasonable assistance or advice. Remain open to constructive feedback if it is offered.

Communicate to be understood.

Many people communicate to impress; however, in business it is much more important to be understood. Use common language that communicates your intentions and ideas clearly. Present one idea at a time whenever possible. Avoid acronyms and industry jargon.

Be a good listener.

Pay close attention to what the customer says as well as how they say it. Work at listening; this means avoiding distractions like your phone, email, etc. Without mimicking them, match some of their mannerisms such as speaking volume and pace or body language to build trust. Respond thoughtfully when it comes time for you to speak to show that you are invested in the conversation.

Good interpersonal communication requires practice, which can be done with anyone from spouses and kids, to strangers in line at the grocery store. No matter your preferred method of practice, the benefits of improved interpersonal communication are indisputable: Better relationships with current and prospective customers lead to increased satisfaction and more business.

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