I was engaged in a conversation recently about why communication plays such an important role in the world of service. It was an interesting discussion and allowed me the opportunity to share my definition of effective communication for the service business.
The quality of our communication is relied on to assess our competence
The quality of our communication is a major source of information that our customers rely on to evaluate our competence and the value of our work. As an intangible service, it is almost impossible for a customer to accurately evaluate actual work quality or competence directly. For example, if it takes us one hour to troubleshoot a problem, how does the customer know that the hour spent was amazing and that it would have taken anyone else a day or more to figure out the problem? The answer is that they don’t really know, so they look to their perception of the quality of our communication as an important input that they use to assess our competence.
Communication can be intentional or unintentional
It is important to remember that communication can be intentional or unintentional. For example, we can send an email as a way of intentionally communicating specific information. Unintentional communication may also occur based on the quality of that email. How the email is constructed (does it use good sentence structure, is it free from spelling errors, etc.) may communicate information to the customer that they use to evaluate our competence. So, for example, a poorly constructed email that has incorrect grammar and plenty of spelling mistakes, may unintentionally communicate an image of us that is not very complimentary.
We can limit the amount of unintentional communication that takes place. If we recognize that the quality of the email that we send will also communicate something about our professionalism, then we can intentionally make an effort to ensure that the email is constructed in a manner that contributes to the communication of our professionalism.
Effective communication for the service business
Which brings me to my definition of effective communication for the service business. Effective communication will achieve three objectives:
- Accurately transfer information
- Create the feeling of assurance in the receiver
- Reflect positively on the sender
Obviously, accurately transferring information is important. Presumably it is the reason we sent the email or had a telephone conversation in the first place. To be effective, the receiver must understand the meaning of the message in the way it was intended by us as the sender. The second and third points are also important because they contribute to the perceived value of our work.
We’re in control
Fortunately, we can consciously construct our emails, conduct our telephone conversations and otherwise communicate in a manner that will intentionally convey our competence and professionalism. This will help ensure that the customer feels reassured by receiving our correspondence and recognize that they are in good hands. Correspondence of this nature will also reflect positively on us as professionals in our trade.
As service professionals, we have a choice. We can remain unconcerned about the importance that our correspondence has in providing insight to our customers about us and our competence and leave the resulting image that we create in their minds up to chance. Or, we can consciously and intentionally use our communication opportunities to effectively communicate so that we continually remind our customers that they are dealing with a competent professional.
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“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw