What if you woke up tomorrow morning and could not communicate?
I am not talking for five or ten minutes; I am talking about the inability to make other people listen to you, understand you, and engage with you from tomorrow moving forward?
What would you do?
Many of you are saying right now, “Well, I would adapt..”
But how would you do that?
How would you make sure that those you wish to communicate with understand what you want to tell them so that they could engage with you and help you achieve your goals?
In business today, this is happening way more than people think. Companies, and the people within them, feel they are communicating, but they are not. They talk at people, push out social media posts, create ads and campaigns that are tone-deaf to the actual needs, wants, and desires of those they wish to influence, and the list goes on. People need to realize that just because you say something does not mean it is understood.
As the saying goes, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it happen?
The same is true for your communication!
Very few companies truly understand their customers, internal or external, well enough to communicate with them. To provide the opportunity for two-way dialogue that offers insights, creates opportunities, and moves agendas forward. Instead, we talk at people, assuming we know what they need, want, think, desire, are wary of, and what success looks like to them.
Here’s a hint: We do not!
The challenge is, how can we? How can we understand other people without talking with them and not at them? How can we build trust and relationships if we take the paternal attitude of we know best, and your life would be so much better if you just listened to us.
The challenge is, too many of us do precisely this. We rely on generalized data sets, assumptions, and agreed-upon best practices without directly talking to our clients. We make decisions we believe are in their best interest without actually verifying this.
As corporations, we do this by reducing the ability to foster human-to-human contact. We outsource to companies paid to answer phones and provide standardized tech support, but cannot provide feedback from customers as to what their real issues are and how our company could make their lives better.
Internally, we answer phones less and less, developing asynchronous communication methods instead because it makes our lives better (but not our clients’ lives).
Our social media posts are just that – posts. We do not dedicate anyone within the company the job of monitoring the social feeds, let alone responding promptly. Our clients and potential clients view this lack of response as lack of caring, driving them into our competitors’ waiting arms because they listen and respond.
Our TV, print, and radio ads are focus tested against a utopic “perfect” audience and fall on deaf ears because those we wish to engage with on those outlets see them as irrelevant and insulting.
Public relations’ job has become merely to spin, not to educate or create a tribe of loyal advocates who support and defend the brand. Through this process, brands morph from being seen as valuable to commodities that are easily replaced and soon forgotten.
So what do we do?
How do we communicate in a way that actually cuts through?
Be authentic in your communication and CARE about your audience!
Find ways to talk to your clients regularly, and I am not saying this is solely the responsibility of your sales department. Marketing, operations, legal, finance, leadership, and others need access to your clients to hear from them directly.
Whether having people take customer service calls quarterly for the day or having them go out with your sales team, not to sell anything, but instead to listen to what you do well and what you can do better is essential today moving forward.
Create a podcast to interview clients, suppliers, employees, and strategic partners so that you gain a 360-degree view of your company and see both opportunities and challenges quicker, and with more clarity.
Listen to all voices within the company. Your employees are closer to your clients than you ever will be, and they have insights that will serve you well. By empowering your teams to be customer experience focused and have the ability to solve issues on their own, clients will feel heard, valued, and needed.
None of this is easy. All of this takes time, systems, and a change of culture to make sure that honest communication happens naturally and effectively. You can stop being perceived as a commodity and instead be a brand worth loving.
Connect with Ben HERE to discuss how to provide your people with the skills and mindset they need to communicate effectively into the new normal.