Autocorrect is not my friend. I’ve lost count of the amount of times it chooses the optimum moment to swap out my favourite, most adaptable word in the English language with a Duck. Don’t get me wrong, I love ducks, but they’ve also slipped their way in to undermine my witty response to the grammar police on my WhatsApp groups all too often.
In a world where 80% of consumers use digital devices to contact customer service, the importance of communicating effectively on digital channels has never been more relevant and with it being near on impossible to convey tone in an email without using an emoji or the words “promise I’m not being sarcastic”, it can be a tricky place to maintain relationships digitally.
Here are our top tips for getting it right:
Build personal relationships, quickly
First impressions really do count. It’s an age old part of human nature and can hinge on your first response or tone. In the digital world our timings are everything but remember everyone is busy. Send a holding email quickly to show acknowledgment and set expectations for when you’re ready to speak.
Face to face and phone communication will always be the best way to build relationships so aim to do this as much as you can. A quick call can often resolve the confusion that a mass email exchange creates, quicker than it takes to reply. Set agendas and send a follow-up to keep what you’ve discussed in writing for future use.
Did someone say waffle? Are we talking about the sweet kind you can cover in ice-cream and fruit or the potato kind you can cook in a toaster? Did you know that you can cook potato waffles in the toaster? You don’t just have to cook them in the oven or grill like they recommend, you can think outside the cardboard box. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, be concise.
If you are talking face-to-face or on the phone it’s important to either make your point and wait for a response or if it’s rhetorical, say it and move on quickly. Waiting for a response encourages the other party to fill the silence which can often be revealing. Moving on quickly keeps the conversation flowing. Another simple method if you’re presenting is to confirm at the start if you’re happy for questions throughout or at the end. It helps keep you focussed and can avoid unnecessary interruptions.
Describe using visuals
Sometimes an email is the only way you can communicate with someone. With more complex topics, they’re often the best way to send attachments and instructions but this can open you up to risks of getting lost in the Matrix.
To make sure your reader can see through the numbers, simple things can make a huge difference:
- Use bullet points. Time is short and attention spans are shorter.
- Send screenshots for guidance. And use the fun highlighter add on.
- Don’t be afraid to send instructions > using > clear > directions
- Bold anything you want to emphasise. It’s not aggressive, it highlights what you need to be clear.
- Think back to school and leave the underline for titles. They can merge your view and get lost in the copy.
Honesty is usually the best policy. I’m not saying 100% brutal honesty, marriages don’t survive that, but I’d leave the lies to the politicians. I’ve always found that being sincere and honest with clients strengthens relationships, even when it’s bad news, and being honest and clear with your communication means you’re also not overpromising.
Set deadlines for a check in even if you don’t have a change in the update and it’s ok to say you don’t know the answer to something but that you’re looking in to it. The computer shouldn’t say no, it should show you what your options are.
Manage your own time
Finally, it can be a tough place to manage your inbox, instant chat, support desk and phone. No matter what area you work in, if you’re communicating online you need to organise your time. Use autoresponders where you can, provide SLAs and cover for the inbound phone and chat comms and check your emails at specific times in the day.
It’ll not only help reduce stress by freeing up time to finish tasks but supports our friend, the expectations setter. While it might prove to your boss that you love to work hard and out of hours, sending emails to clients at 11 at night or on a Sunday tells clients that you’re not organised enough. Plus, how are you going to improve your skills in juggling that tricky third ball if you’re working out of hours? Just me? Ok.
If you’re looking for an agency that puts communication first, drop us a line or pop in for a coffee to talk about how we can help.