How you communicate with your team members and your customers can directly affect the profitability of your business.
Good, clear communication:
- Reduces time and money wasted due to misunderstandings
- Uncovers problems early, before they become an issue
- Ensures everyone is working towards the right/same goal (and no-one is making assumptions)
- Improves relationships all round, leading to a happier workforce (and better staff retention) and happier customers (who’ll keep coming back).
So, how can you improve communication in your workshop to take advantage of the benefits? The tips below will help. They are relevant to dealing with both employees and customers. (If you don’t have employees, you can still apply these tricks to your communications with suppliers and other business partners.)
1. Use appropriate language
Appropriate language isn’t about swearing (that’s a different topic). It’s about understanding who you’re talking to, their level of knowledge, and making sure you’re being understood.
Don’t use complicated terms, abbreviations and acronyms that might confuse the other person or be readily misunderstood. For example, is “take a look at the GB on that Mazda” a request to look at the gearbox or the glove box?
2. Be clear, concise and complete
What’s the simplest way you can say something and get the precise result you need? Whatever it is, that’s the way to say it (using language appropriate to whomever you’re communicating with, of course).
Don’t over complicate things and don’t waffle. Just give a streamlined response or instruction that includes all the information the person needs.
3. Listen closely to what people are saying
When someone is speaking, listen to what they’re saying. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know what they’re going to say, interrupting, and offering advice and solutions without actually having heard what they have to say.
Don’t multitask while you’re having a conversation with someone. Looking at them, maintaining eye contact, listening, using the person’s name, and responding appropriately are signs of respect that people notice and respond to positively.
4. Listen closely to what people are not saying
What someone doesn’t say can be as important as what they do say. You might not know an employee is unhappy until they resign, or you might not know a customer is angry until you read their Google review of your service. Pay attention to body language. Ask questions.
Similarly, pay attention to your own body language and any signals you might be giving off that you’re not interested, not listening, or don’t care (like folded arms, avoiding eye contact or keeping the office door shut).
5. Ask for, and give, feedback
Communication is a two-way process. You’re not just providing or receiving information; you’re engaging with another human being. How they feel about that engagement influences what happens next (does a disgruntled employee’s productivity drop? Does an unhappy customer never come back?)
So it makes sense to ask for, and to give, feedback. For example, you could ask a customer, “Are you happy with the service you got today? Is there anything we could have done better?” Or you might congratulate your employee on a job well done fixing the transmission on that Mazda.
6. If you disagree, don’t be disagreeable
Disagreeing with people is completely normal. It’s how we handle that disagreement that matters. Always be polite and courteous, allowing the other party to be heard. (And language that makes it clear you’ve been listening.)
Keeping a level head stops things needlessly spiralling out of control. No matter how stressful the situation, try to keep your language positive and professional. Never let it get personal.
7. Write things down
When you keep a note, you create a resource everyone can refer back to if they need to. It’s a simple prompt that can save a lot of arguments!
When you ask an employee to do something, write it down on the job board. When a customer calls up, make a note of whatever important information they’ve shared.
Good communication is vital for the smooth and profitable running of any workshop. In most cases, the mistakes made in any workshop can all be boiled down to poor communication. It’s not enough to be a good technician, we have to be good communicators, too.
Implement some of these communication techniques into your daily interactions with employees and customers and see the difference they make.