Train your team to be stand-out communicators

I once attended a presentation where the speaker focused on the “not my job” mentality and how harmful it can be to businesses. That resonated with me as a communication professional, and it stuck with me as a great reminder when working with clients to develop communication strategies. Many tasks or requests that come our way during the day don’t necessarily fall within our job roles. When that happens, the way we communicate about it is often the make-or-break point for the person asking for help or information. 

Have you ever walked into a store and asked an employee for help locating a product, only to be told that it’s not in their department and you’ll have to go ask someone else? I immediately walk out most of the time. My communication brain tells me that person should have replied with, “I’m not sure but let me get you to the person who can help. Follow me.” Regular employee communication training is an essential part of customer service, so let’s talk about important elements to factor into your training. 

Make communication part of everyone’s job role

Some people are naturally inclined to be great communicators, and others need assistance through training and practice. When training frontline staff, you may provide baseline tips like greeting customers with a friendly “Hello. Let us know if we can help you today.” What oftentimes can be missed is training on how staff members should offer solutions to problems. This is where the “not my job” mentality sneaks in, so it’s important to express your expectations for communication practices among all employees. Make it known that team members bear the responsibility of assisting clients or customers no matter if it’s part of their traditional role or not. 

Don’t forget about internal communication, too. It should be clear that part of your team’s communication responsibilities is to communicate with each other. When this fails to happen, you’ll begin to see breakdowns in business, which only creates problems. For example, those answering the phone should be trained to answer certain customer questions in the same way, with nearly the same response or answer. Calling a business and expecting one thing, only to show up and be told something completely different does not make for a great customer experience. 

Provide instructions for emergencies

No business ever wants to have to deal with a crisis, but it can and does happen. Being prepared for crises is something every organization should put at the top of its list, and we frequently work with those who have both prepared in some fashion and those who did not. One important piece to remember is that frontline employees are very important in crisis situations! Many times, it’s assumed leadership or those with higher positions at a company should be the only ones to speak to the public when an issue comes up. That should not be the case because it takes a village, so to speak. One of our crisis strategies is to establish a chain of command that outlines who is authorized to say what, when to say it and how to say it. It begins with those answering the phones or greeting individuals at the door. They must be prepared to respond to clients or customers with an appropriate message and they should feel empowered to do so. 

Adapt to meet your customers’ communication needs

We always say the world of communication is constantly changing. Evaluating communication practices and messages should be an annual occurrence. Meeting with frontline staff to find out what they feel worked well and what didn’t helps identify gaps and weaknesses that end up turning customers away. These checklist items may include how your business communicates digitally with customers ‒ through your website, via email, phone calls or texts. Or, it may be that you need to make some changes in-store or office during face-to-face interactions. It can even be as simple as rewording the way something reads on a restaurant menu to avoid confusion. If you or your team pick up on a recurring point of contention related to a certain communication practice or channel, that is your signal to investigate and make a change. 

Communication training overall should be a regular part of your business day as well. Use instances to provide counsel and help so team members know what to do the next time something similar happens. Bringing your staff together to cover communication policies and going through training exercises instills confidence and helps empower employees to be top-notch communicators. Here at Obsidian, we develop and provide training for all different kinds of communication scenarios. If you don’t know where to begin and need a more concrete plan for your team, call in the pros – we’ll be glad to help!