Remember the warning they gave you back in high school driver-ed class about never getting behind the wheel while angry? You learned that driving while mad takes your focus off the road. Bad things can then happen. A car crash, for example. Well, that same safety principle applies to customer and colleague communication.
In other words, never talk to anyone while angry. When you’re upset, the chances of you saying something you’ll regret rise dramatically. Bad things can then happen. For example, your good relationship with that person ends up wrapped around a figurative telephone pole, totaled.
So only talk to people when you feel calm, collected, and clear-headed.
That’s just one of several insights Valet customer-support specialists recently shared in response to an in-house survey of their favorite communication tips and tools.
We think you might like these communication tips. Here they are. Feel welcome to make them your own.
Communication Tip 1: Work Remotely
Believe it or not, the most customer-responsive workforce is a decentralized one.
The team at Valet happens to be exactly that, which is very advantageous, says Maureen Crist, client success manager.
“We are a 100-percent remotely based team,” she offers. “We all work from home. But with the communication tools available now, we also feel totally connected all the time. Every type of conversation and interaction that takes place in a physical office can also occur in a virtual office. No one gets isolated. No one is ever out of the loop.”
From the perspective of the customer, it matters not whether conversations take place in a physical or virtual office, Maureen adds. “It’s all good as long as the conversation goes smoothly and successfully.”
However, it matters a great deal from the perspective of the company. “Going virtual eliminates the cost of leasing, furnishing, operating, and maintaining a headquarters office,” she says. “It also gives you a worldwide pool of candidates from which to fill jobs.”
Communication Tip 2: Humility Counts
Be humble in your communications with customers and colleagues alike, advises Eric Dye, Valet client success lead.
“Don’t act like a know-it-all or come across as always right,” he implores. “Those communication styles tend to antagonize people. They’re counterproductive.”
A form of humility practiced by Eric involves repeating a speaker’s words back to him or her.
“I do this to make sure I’m getting whatever the person just told me,” he explains. “Pride can keep you from doing this because the natural tendency is to go ‘right, I understand’ when in reality you don’t because you fear looking dumb.”
Communication Tip 3: Listen Closer
Amy Givens, who leads the Valet accounts receivables unit, suggests a key to successful communication is your ability to actually hear what the other person says.
But stopping the speaker’s words from going in one ear and out the other takes practice, she cautions. “It’s something you have to work at.”
Communication Tip 4: Explain Yourself
Josh Shashaty, lead developer at Valet, finds it helpful to give a reason for asking a particular question or when making a statement.
“Explain why you want to know this or why you’re saying that,” he recommends. “This helps to align the other person’s thinking with yours when you approach with a question or comment and they aren’t at that moment in the same frame of mind or context as you are.”
One way to do this is by saying something along these lines: “Hey, I noticed you don’t seem to be a fan of the Oxford comma in your writing. Is that true? Just asking, because a lot of people who don’t use it aren’t aware that readers are grateful for it.”
Communication Tip 5: Use the Best Tools
These are the communication tools the Valet team uses regularly and swears by.
Slack. Slack is a messaging center that makes collaboration very fast and easy. With it you can talk to your teammates no matter the miles separating you. The system notifies you if anything related to a past conversation crops up and needs your or the team’s attention. Everything that transpires on this platform becomes part of your searchable archives (although if you get the free version you can search back only as far as the last 10,000 messages). More information here.
Google G-Suite. Google offers business versions of Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and other favorite features. Use G-Suite if you want to beef up your administrative control over how your team privately and individually use Google tools. That way, you can make sure collaborations do in fact take place and that no one is left in the dark. Learn about it here.
Google Hangout/Meet. Hangout by Google lets you and up to 10 other people talk to each other online and in real time. You can talk via audio only or with the addition of video. Both the sound and picture quality are pretty good, but you need to use Google Meet if you want high-definition audio-video. A lot of people do, believing that the sharper the words and images, the greater the team cohesiveness. Also, Google Meet allows as many as 30 people to log in at the same time. Unfortunately, Google Meet is available only to enterprise users. Go here for more.
Zoom. This videoconferencing solution is like Google Meet, but with the ability to welcome 100 remote users at the same time, not just 30. That makes Zoom particularly helpful if you want to host a training class or webinar that attracts a lot of signups. Zoom wins high marks for simplicity and the fact that more than one participant at a time can share his or her screen. More information here.
HelpScout. Customers can usually tell when you send them robo-emails. Not so much when you use HelpScout. In fact, recipients will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between machine- and person-made emails, help-desk tickets, and the like. But that’s only a small part of what HelpScout does. Its most vital role is to provide a single access point for everyone in your organization who needs to get involved with or monitor client conversations. Read further.
Meetingbird. Few things in life cause more teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling than trying to set up a meeting with someone. The times they want to meet with you are times you’re tied up, and vice-versa. So messages ping-pong back and forth as you negotiate a mutually acceptable time. Meetingbird (and its rival, Calendly) solve this problem. You tell Meetingbird the days and times when you’re available to meet. If colleagues will attend with you, they do likewise and tell Meetingbird the days and times they can make it. The system then presents to the customer only those days and times of everyone’s actual availability. The customer sees those dates at a glance and picks the one that works best for him or her. Simple. And a huge time-saver and frustration-eliminator. Check it out.
Harmony PSA. This is a professional services automation system that lets you manage contracts and projects from within your help-desk operation. Every detail of every contract and/or job is stored centrally so that it can be accessed across all of your business functions. In addition to managing contracts and projects, you can use Harmony to track opportunities, run sales campaigns, give accurate price quotes, receive orders, and manage your project assets. Read more here.
Holacracy. One of the smartest things you can do to increase the success of your teams is to quit trying to manage them from the top down. Better results come from letting your teams self-manage—particularly if your teams are remotely located. Holocracy is software that enables teams to assume the responsibility of running the things for which they are responsible. By using Holocracy, tasks no longer slip through the cracks as once they did and no one gets caught in the position of running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Take a closer look.
Grammarly. Clear writing is hard to do. Proper spelling isn’t any easier. Yet both are essential to good communication. That’s why you’ll welcome Grammarly to your box of business tools. It corrects mistakes you make in the construction, punctuation, and spelling of the correspondences you create. As a result, people who receive emails and other missives from you won’t end up scratching their heads wondering exactly what you were trying to say. Details here.
Trello. The best way to keep track of checklists, assignments, due dates, and support materials is with Trello, a nifty package of easy-to-use, highly reliable scrum software. Scrum is a management technique designed to help teams of under 10 people work more efficiently and effectively. The technique emphasizes exceptionally close communication among all members of the team so that solutions to suddenly arising problems are quickly solved. If you need to organize ideas or systematize processes, this is the tool to get. It’s also excellent for aiding team or client collaborations. More information here.
Toggl. Time is money, but tracking it costs nothing if you use Toggl. This is a productivity tool that helps you answer the question of where did the time go that you spent on specific activities throughout the day. It helps with your communication by showing whether you spend too much or too little time conversing with your team and your customers. See it here.
LastPass. Much online communication begins not with a salutation but with the entering of a password. LastPass is a password manager that offers to keep all your passwords in a safe, convenient place on your computer or phone. It’s a Valet favorite because it also generates super-strong passwords and securely stores digital records, such as ID cards. Basically, any time a site or program asks for a password, LastPass handles everything for you. Learn more.
If you’d like to learn more about good communication—or if you’d just like to experience it firsthand—then please contact Valet.
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