How many times have you heard the phrase “communication is key” and thought, well, of course, communication is key? It’ an age-old cliche that we’ve all heard at least a dozen times. The ability to relay information is paramount to progress, and any business benefits from being able to do it effectively. Whether it’s with clients and customers, or internally between team members and departments, communication in business is critical to success. If a company is a body, then an efficient flow of information is the nervous system keeping it aligned and alive.
Workplace culture is just as important as your bottom line because it ensures that every working part can thrive. So when a business develops a culture of inconsistency, it inhibits the company’s growth. Meanwhile, it can damage a brand’s reputation, which essentially gives free advertising to your competition.
Poor Communication in Business
On the other hand, having poor communication in business can do serious damage. Failing to properly convey important data can cause internal conflict. Misrepresenting information can lead to confusion or frustration with customers. In the end, not only does this leave productivity and innovation stagnant, but it can also create a hostile work environment.
When it comes to communication in business, there are plenty of mistakes that can cost an organization a lot of growth. Some business owners or team leaders might even think that these strategies work. However, research shows that some of these issues with communication can lead to some serious issues. To have fun with it, look at each one like an infamous cliche.
1. What happens when you assume
There is an oh-so-clever word game people play to prove a point about assumptions that most of us are familiar with. Needless to say, when one assumes that someone else understands an order or request without confirmation, it opens the door for mistakes to happen. For example, think of a restaurant and its kitchen staff.
Everyone should have to work in the service industry at some point. Not only to teach important lessons about humility and being of service, but also about the importance of communication in business. For those dealing with customers, you often find servers recording and them repeating orders for verification. If you’ve ever had to take food back to a chef and explain your mistake, you understand why.
Another restaurant practice that businesses can learn from is the system of call-backs you often hear between cooks and servers. If someone is making a request or giving an update, a lot of times you will hear something like “extra sauce, heard” which is a way of letting the person giving the information that they have been understood. It also gives them a chance to correct the recipient just in case of an error.
Follow-up is an important aspect of corporate communication both internally and externally. It’s a matter of making sure that you understand expectations and asking for clarification when you don’t. Businesses should make it a point to communicate with customers. Don’t assume they love everything you do just because they still use your products or services. Try taking surveys and asking for reviews.
When it comes to your team, don’t assume that they know what you want and how you want it. It is just as important to ask questions and support the people on the ground floor as it is to support the consumer.
2. Avoiding the elephant in the room
Naturally, people don’t want to cause conflict, especially in the workplace. Nobody likes a hostile work environment, because it hinders cooperation and collaboration. Still, part of business communication is having to have difficult conversations. Out of all the types of business communication, this may be one of the most important, because how you handle these situations can shift the culture of a department or an entire company.
With customers, there are a number of ways you may find yourself faced with an elephant in the room, such as:
Dealing with complaints about products or services
Apologizing for the company’s mistakes
Delivering bad news to a customer
Each of these situations can be hard to deal with. For instances, sometimes a customer wants to lodge a complaint. By avoiding it, a business is missing an opportunity to address an issue and try to save a client. It could even prevent others from seeking your services if the complaint is made public. People don’t like working with companies that ignore the consumer.
But perhaps you do apologize. Of course, it is possible the customer will create more conflict. However, by a business not communicating with their customers, the result could be far worse because the elephant seems so much bigger than it needs to be.
When addressing an issue with customers, always remember:
Be prepared; know the facts
Remain calm and professional
Make sure to acknowledge the issue
Take responsibility when necessary
Show compassion and understanding
Follow through with necessary action
These same rules apply to a company’s staff. Apply these concepts if there is a difficult conversation involving employees, such as:
Negative performance feedback
Letting people go
Delivering bad news
Overall, a business should do everything to meet challenges head-on. Do not be afraid of challenges, because they are opportunities to grow.
3. Timing is everything
Time is literally the most valuable thing that any of us have. Once we have spent an hour or even a minute, we never get it back. Every moment that you put into a project or a conversation is an investment. That is why time is such an important element of communication in business. Whether you are an hourly employee watching the clock and counting overtime, or an executive trying to make sure your meeting deadlines; time matters.
Where most businesses fail is by making their customers feel like they are on borrowed time. Not everything revolves around the business and what is convenient for the company. Sure, time is money, but this law of life is not exclusive to your time and your money.
When it comes to communication, this means being prompt and proactive. In fact, technology has made this kind of goal so much easier to accomplish. Email, texting, and direct messaging make consistent communication in business incredibly convenient. Therefore, companies and employees have even less of an excuse not to stay current with their communication.
Today there is more emphasis on measuring response times across the board. Social media platforms like Facebook even reward companies for maintaining a consistent reputation for communication. Almost any company that has customer service by phone keeps track of the time it takes to answer a call, and how quickly services can be rendered.
The same goes for employees and co-workers. Make sure that you are always keeping the lines of communication in business open and active. Create a culture where even if answers are not immediately available, there is still a response to let someone know their time is valuable to you and their inquiry is important.
In the end, people want to know they are a priority.
4. My way or the highway
It is easy for some people to fall into a habit of one-sided conversations. They feel that they need to dominate conversations and decisions. Executives and managers can even develop a “my way or the highway” mentality that is counterproductive to the growth of a brand. Sure, you may have put in the time and built on a vision, but devaluing or completely dismissing other perspectives can be harmful to growth.
Leadership, whether on a corporate level or with small teams, means working with others. Sometimes people get into the habit of dictating to others instead of steering them in the right direction. This closed-minded mentality is extremely harmful to a business. Individuals will often be unwilling to consider new opinions or ideas. They may even be overly judgmental and jump to conclusions. This is a huge turn off for not only employees but also customers and clients.
In order to improve communication in business settings, there are a number of techniques you can practice.
Engaged listening- try being part of the discussion without interrupting or trailing off in your own thoughts.
Check yourself- Don’t let yourself get trapped in one answer. Ask yourself if it is possible that it is always the best option, and how it could be different and still be effective.
Seek new knowledge- Limiting yourself is harmful to not just personal development, but also to the growth of your brand. Don’t become complacent. Always try to find ways to be better.
Embrace the different- purposely look for opportunities to examine new perspectives, beliefs, and approaches to familiar concepts.
As we are talking about cliches, another to remember is “nothing changes if nothing changes”. So if you want things to get better, it is important to seek better ideas. Therefore, you have to get better at communicating and being open to new opportunities.
5. Too smart for your own good
Obviously, you are pretty smart. After all, you are reading this article because you want to understand better types of business communication, and that is a smart move. It is impossible to overstate the importance of business communication. However, sometimes even the best business people can be too smart for their own good. What we are getting at here is how important it can be to make things simple.
It can be harmful to a business when orders, questions, or data is easy to misunderstand. The more complex things are, the harder it can be for someone to digest and act accordingly. If directions or requests are vague or confusing, it is easy for employees or co-workers to make mistakes. At the same time, if a customer feels they cannot understand what a business is offering or what the stipulations of a contract are, they may have less confidence in the transaction.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Essentially, the better you are at making something easy to understand, the more refined your communication skills are.
When it comes to communication in business, clarity is one of the key elements. One way to improve in this area is to keep things simple. There is no need to give long, extended speeches or write a novel in every email. Give people the essentials, and deliver it in a way that is coherent. You don’t have to use elegant or wordy language to make things attractive. People would rather understand your meaning than to get lost in your message.
You are smart. But smart business communication allows everyone in the conversation to feel as smart as you.
Avoid these cliches of business communication, you put your business in a better position to reach more customers and build stronger connections. Read more about the teamwork tips to engage the team and how communication in business improves employee retention. And find out how you can build business character with marketing apps.