Communicating well with the public is important for any business, but it is especially significant for service businesses. Instant text, voice and image communication technologies make it faster and easier to communicate with our customers than ever before. But the content and quality of communication still rely on good verbal and written communication skills. We can use the method of communication our customer prefers, but what we communicate to them remains much more important than how it was sent. It continues to be important for us to hone our verbal and written communication skills and make sure new hires also possess those skills. There are three general types of information that service industry professionals need to communicate to their customers.
Most documentation is required by law, industry standards or company policy and must be communicated to each customer. It usually describes the service performed and the limits of any guarantee or warranty. In addition there is usually some information the service company requires for the customer's service record or file. Service reports are typically designed so the technician can communicate most of the required information by simply checking off appropriate boxes, but there must be space for the technician to relate specific information about his / her actions. Those comment sections require good written communication skills. As a trainer of new technicians I always warned them of the importance of what they write on those legal documents. They are not only communicating with the customer but also with their supervisor, a regulatory agency, or even a lawyer, judge or jury if there is ever litigation involving the service. Because customers seldom read the service report completely before signing it, it is important for technicians to verbally communicate the information to them to make sure they understand it. This adds value to the service and requires good verbal communication skills. Although documentation is necessary it has the drawback of being primarily one-way communication with little participation from the customer.
Communicating this type of information involves some customer participation because it is normally provided in response to a question from them. Educational communication should be professional and clearly understood. It requires that the technician have a thorough knowledge of service performance and techniques. Experience, training and third party reference materials help make this type of communication possible but it still requires good verbal communication skills. Educating customers about their particular problem and the solution provided for them will add much value and credibility to each service.
This type of communication is often underused or completely overlooked because it is not required by law and is not technical or educational in nature. However, it just may be the most important and fruitful line of communication we can establish with our customers. It expresses our concern, empathy, appreciation and attentiveness. It adds a personal touch to the relationship with our customer. An attentive technician listening and responding to customer concerns; an administrative assistant dealing with customers in a pleasant, efficient and caring manner; a salesperson following up with each new customer after the sale to make sure the problem is being addressed to their satisfaction; or the owner or supervisor sending customers a thank you or holiday card with a brief personal message. These are all examples of expressive communication. We can express ourselves verbally, in writing or even claimed by our body language or tone of voice, but we must be sincere. It is this type of communication that turns a customer into a friend and we all know how much harder it is to fire a friend than it is to fire a contractor.