6 Tips for Effective Communication Skills
Hunter Hererra is 22 years old and trains staff who are 20 years older than himself.
Practice is key. For Hererra, the key to teaching his staff how to communicate with different types of customers stems from practicing scenarios that each employee could likely encounter.
As a young professional himself, Hererra encounters issues when he goes on sales calls. As regional sales manager for Professional Collision Equipment, he dabbles in the art of communicating a sell and by adjusting to the needs of each boss he meets.
Part of how people communicate and interact is how a person’s trust and respect are gained, says Rocco Romanella, founder, president and CEO of 3SIXTY Management Services. He says in order to achieve a desired outcome, the boss needs to first focus on teaching the team to control the outcome of their day, balance priorities and measure and follow up on these lessons for improvement.
“The time you spend with your team members is an investment in the future, not an expense or burden on your time,” Romanella says. “You cannot successfully grow your business without an investment in your people.”
Romanella has over 36 years of experience in business management and competitive marketing strategy as the former president of retail and residential operations at UPS and CEO and director of UniTek Global Services. He looks at training across multiple generations as part of his principles to achieve “balanced leadership.”
Despite the subtleties required for communicating successfully in any situation, at the end of the day, Herera and Romanella offer training tips for a boss to use to create effective communication between the employee and the customer.
Training Tip #1: The boss should set the example.
An employee cannot hope to improve communication skills without practicing. More experienced workers might not be as comfortable as others when it comes to talking on the phone all day, so the boss needs to turn the situation into hands-on training, Hererra says.
Hererra says staff can practice this best by being placed into scenarios each person might encounter in the shop. For example, the staff could be placed in a situation where the customer is difficult.
Romanella says a boss can continue to teach this lesson by acting as a “true solutions provider,” in which he or she consistently carries out these practices to set an example for the team.
Training Tip #2: Place an emphasis on learning the services that the business sells.
In order to avoid barriers in communication, staff members need to be sufficiently knowledgeable about the job, Romanella says. During every customer interaction, the business’ reputation is on the line.
Hererra agrees that every position in the shop needs to “brush up” on learning. He says the best way for a younger employee to learn, in his experience, is through reading, or even watching online video tutorials.
Such informational videos can be found on platforms like YouTube, he says. In addition to that video site, the boss should have I-CAR classes and training in house for employees. Then, each staff member can get hands-on training.
Training Tip #3: Teach staff to listen and let the customer dictate the pace.
An important step to teach the staff as a boss is to understand the audience and adapt, Romanella says. Be respectful of everyone’s time, tenure and experience. If someone seems confused, ask that person for feedback or a confirmation he or she understands.
Teach the employee to allow the customer to respond at his or her own pace, Romanella says. A customer should never be rushed in this interaction.
If the employee does not understand a request, he or she can follow up with clear, positively articulated questions until the concept is clear.
Training Tip #4. Emphasize the importance of authenticity in communicating.
One example of characteristics that can be taught and will carry over as authentic include team-building skills, Romanella says. Employees who demonstrate team-building skills can anticipate potential conflicts and react accordingly, handle differences in work styles among co-workers, inspire others to contribute ideas and demonstrate a personal commitment to group goals.
A part of being authentic is being fair to customers and following through on your word, he says.
And, if the employee is struggling to read a customer’s body language, a script can be made in advance for that person. Include a flowchart of questions to ask, Hererra suggests.
Training Tip #5: Look into interactive training methods for staff.
The owner’s responsibility lies in making sure the employee can complete any type of communication training without distractions, Romanella says.
Romanella suggests a shop owner can utilize employee compensation as a way to get everyone on board with conducting training outside of work hours.
Interactive modules are very effective when the lessons include a passing or failing score, he says. The key to identifying the right type of online training is determining the goal, how much the boss is willing to spend, ensuring continuous training after the module and expending the budget.
Remember, Romanella says, the training should be taught in a way that the teacher can take a step back and say he or she would want to be trained in this way.
Hererra says that when he conducts onsite training, he does not just teach the technicians how to use the equipment. He also teaches them about past examples that were successful or unsuccessful. For hands-on training, he comes equipped with a checklist of all the items he wants to cover in the session.
Training Tip #6: Try a role play of the customer service interaction.
Acting out a customer service situation can highlight any disconnects coming from the staff, Romanella says.
“It forces you to be in the shoes of the person sending the messages and receiving the messages or feedback,” he says.
Feedback has the potential to reinforce good behavior, as well as clarify misconceptions. And, when another person gives feedback on the performance of his or her coworker, it can build self-esteem, check for understanding of the topic and, ultimately, provide a unique viewpoint.
“Younger people tend to try to make training more interesting because they are fairly new to what they are teaching,” Hererra says.