A core component of every successful business is an effective communication strategy. How you communicate with your employees and clients can make or break the growth of your company. As the proliferation of industry disrupting startups continues, operating as efficiently as possible has become a requirement for the survival of many businesses. Ensuring you have a solid communication strategy is no longer a ‘best practice’ recommendation, but a necessity for businesses that want to stay competitive.
Commit to Listening
When engaging in dialogue with investors, clients or employees, it is important that you actually take the time to listen. It’s common for business owners and leaders to focus so much on appearing confident and conveying their own message that they don’t put enough effort into actually listening to whomever they’re speaking to. Whether it’s a presentation, customer call or investor pitch, listening to questions and feedback is crucial to ensuring that your message is being understood in the way that you intended.
Create an In-House Wiki
Create a company-wide database that houses everything about your company’s values, beliefs, goals, policies, and expectations. Many of the conflicts people have are the result of poor communication. The workplace is no different. Insubordination, misalignment, and failure to meet expectations are often a result of a failure to effectively communicate those things to employees. Providing access to a company wiki on day one is a great way to eliminate the confusion that causes those workplace issues.
Invest in the Right Communication Tools
With communication playing such an important role in the success of a business, naturally, the tools you use to facilitate your communication are just as important. Finding the right tools for your business should be a careful and pragmatic process, based on the specific needs of your organization. With so many communication tools on the market, identifying which one works best for you will take some time and thorough investigation. If you prefer to invest in a single communication tool rather than an ensemble of tools, look into unified communications solutions. Unified communications tools combine instant messaging, email, virtual conference calls, and contact centers all into a single package. Limiting your search to unified communications tools will significantly narrow your search range. Cloud communication tools like 8×8’s Ucaas suite remove all the struggles of traditional communication tools while also adding flexibility.
Encourage Candid Feedback
Provide a fair and transparent way for employees to give genuine feedback. It’s arrogant to believe that any organization can successfully innovate with the input from management alone. That’s the reason great leaders should provide their employees with the opportunity to give honest feedback. In practice, this looks like giving every employee a chance to state their opinion anonymously. Using something like a Google Forms survey that’s distributed across the company via email would be one example. Soliciting employee feedback using this method gives you a clear way to identify what’s working well, what isn’t working well, and what can be improved. While your customer feedback shapes your product, your employee feedback should shape your organization. Refusing to take external input only stifles innovation and creates a hostile working environment.
Rules of Thumb
Here are some general rules of thumb to help you navigate customer and employee communications.
- Avoid controversial topics – Your customer base will likely be a diverse group of people with various beliefs and values. Therefore, it is a great rule of thumb to avoid discussing controversial issues with both employees and customers. The exception is if the topic aligns with your company or customer’s core values. A successful example of this is Nike’s Kaepernick ad last year that increased sales by 31%.
- Maintain professionalism in communication – This should be a given, but when a customer is berating you, an employee is disrespectful, or a boss is rude, it is imperative that you do not reciprocate and rather continue to conduct yourself professionally. Even if you are justified in doing so, responding in an unprofessional manner to any employee or customer can have many unforeseen consequences.
- Avoid discussing complex topics or important decisions via text or email – Attempting to communicate complicated concepts or important decisions via text and email can cost you time and money. If there is something important that you need to ask a stakeholder, it is best to do so either on the phone, through video call or in person. Text-based conversations abstract many of the communication cues we need to understand what people are saying, resulting in frequent misunderstandings.
- Use as little jargon as possible – When talking to employees and customers, it is best to ensure you are clearly understood every time. A helpful way to do so is by using as little technical or complex terminology as possible to eliminate any potential barriers to understanding.
- Use images whenever possible – Images are a great way to clear up any possible confusion someone may have about what you are communicating. So whether it’s an ad, email, or text message, if an image fits and makes sense, add it.
As the year progresses, we will see many more businesses come and go. While there is no guarantee that any new business will be successful, it will become even more clear that the ones that are, will have perfected their communication strategy. Let this be the year that you perfect yours.