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Communicating with customers in the CEC
Wed, 1st Jul 2009
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Is there a more effective way of communicating with customers in this current economic climate? Is   there a way to hold the hope for your customer base? Yes there is!

The first step is simply to listen to what your customer or client is saying to you. When people really feel they  are being heard, the need to keep pushing their opinion forward diminishes. They don’t need to persist in their  viewpoint if they realise you genuinely understood their concerns the first time.  Regardless of what they are  saying to you, if you are actively listening to your customer, they will immediately pick up on your interest and  that may help defuse any angst they are feeling. Active listening simply involves maintaining eye contact, using open facial expressions and verbally responding when appropriate.

You then have a choice about what you do next, but whichever option you go for, you must be also be empathetic. You can actively reflect back what they are saying to you, or you can gently proffer your own opinion – as long as it is not too negative! You are in no position to change the economy, but you are in a  position to be positive in your responses to your customer base.

Replying in a positive sense can be as simple as acknowledging what the client has said to you and then  offering a comment like, “Well, they are saying it won’t go on forever”, or “Apparently it will never be as bad  as the great depression of the 1930s”, both of which are true! Remember people are looking for answers and  some sort of hope, and this (rightly or wrongly) may well be directed at your place of business!

One thing that is surfacing at the moment is the public’s willingness to buy into the doom and gloom. This  certainly contributes to the feelings of panic and helplessness individuals are feeling. You do not have to buy  into this; in fact the opposite is true. Be empathic and supportive. Why? Because your client will leave feeling  a little more hopeful and positive than when they arrived.

Conversely, if you engage in discussing how bad the situation is, you run the risk of them leaving your  workplace feeling slightly worse than when they arrived! And they certainly won’t be feeling overly optimistic  about you. Never underestimate how people’s feelings affect what they think and how this is reflected in their subsequent discussions with others.

To become a positive communicator, begin to do the following today:

? Actively listen by holding eye contact and using open facial expressions.? Be empathetic and show genuine interest in the customer.? Reflect back by making comments that show you have heard their opinion.? Be positive; stay realistic but err on the side of positivity.? Don’t engage in negative responses, as these can bring a person’s mood down.? Give hope through being optimistic.

Try today to engage a typically negative customer in a positive manner and consider their response. If it is not  what you hoped for, try again with the next one. You will make an impact; you just may not see it quite yet! Be  aware, you can never change someone’s mindset – if they are determined to be negative and pessimistic, that’s  okay, but try to remain calm and focused on what you are doing, providing the best frontline service you can. Before too long, customers will be drawn to you. Remember, there is no greater referral than word of mouth!Gloria Masters assists a variety of companies from across New Zealand to have a more effective workplace  culture. To facilitate this she custom-designs a variety of specialist workshops, mentors a range of staff,  assists with mediation work and supervises senior management. She is in demand both as a writer and  workshop provider. Phone 0508 4 MASTERS Email Web