Managing tough conversations can make a HUGE difference in growing business.
The Wall Street Journal published this compelling story about seven guidelines for making tough conversations easier. They work in personal and business conversations. Using them effectively will help grow your business.
Here are the guidelines, and I share my perspective on how they can be used in customer conversations to build loyalty, nurture relationships and grow business:
- Don’t rush into it. Conversations undertaken in the heat of a moment often don’t go well. Invite your valued person to talk. Explain that you want to have a vulnerable conversation and ask when it would be a good time to chat. Reassure the other person that the conversation isn’t all bad. Researchers call this pre-talk meta-communication—it is communication about communication, and it helps both parties prepare. How often do brands and companies rush to defend or deflect instead of laying the groundwork for an engaging conversation? Is this any way to begin nurturing a customer for life?
- Pay attention to your state of mind. Ditto for the other person. “If you know that they are emotionally fragile or under a lot of duress you may want to consider a time where they are more relaxed and receptive,” says Woody Woodward, an organizational psychologist in Jersey City, NJ. We all have bad days, but the last thing we should do is take them out on a customer either live or on social media. I suggest the age-old advice of taking a deep breath before you respond. When you can, sleep on your response. It’s the Abe Lincoln strategy of writing about his feelings to a colleague and then filing the letter to read in a less heated moment.
- Start with a question. Try to learn where the other person stands, rather than make assumptions. “You may not like what you hear, but at least you can find some common ground on the actual issue in dispute,” says Dr. Woodward. This can be as simple as how can I help you? This signals your readiness and willingness to be fair and open-minded.
- Listen compassionately. Focus on listening more than talking. To show your loved one you understand what he or she said, repeat it: I understand that you are upset because I said I need more space. Allow the other person to express emotion. Sentences such as, “Don’t feel sad,” or “You are overreacting,” should never come out of your mouth. “What a person really needs is for you to validate their feelings,” says Susan Kuczmarski, a cultural anthropologist, adjunct faculty member in the executive education program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and author of “Becoming a Happy Family.” Nothing is more satisfying to a person than being appreciated and treated as someone with legitimate concerns, many of which may be emotional. I suggest you be mindful that this customer is already in your fold, so strengthen this relationship by showing them that you are listening.
- Give recognition up front. Acknowledge the other person’s strengths. Give a compliment. This will lower the emotional intensity of the discussion, says Dr. Kuczmarski. Making someone feel comfortable and offering value can be transformational. Dale Carnegie calls this beginning in a friendly way.
- Be clear about your goals. What do you want to get out of the discussion? Write this down beforehand. Some people even like to take notes into the talk, to stay on track. “If you were talking to your boss or giving an important presentation, you would bring your notes,” Jayson Dibble says. Use these to clearly state what you need from your loved one. When both parties are on the same page, the conversation can be made easier and more comfortable. I use this guideline in every call, conversation and contact. It drives the value and directs the path of the exchange.
- Reframe the talk. View it as a chance to make your relationship better. It might be uncomfortable but it doesn’t have to be negative. “Instead of seeing the conversation as an obstacle and the other person as an opponent, see it as an opportunity to learn about each other and grow,” says Dr. Dibble. This is the crown jewel. It’s the Nietzche perspective that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Those guidelines certainly will help you personally, and I am confident that they will help you succeed in difficult conversations about your company and brand. Managing them well will help you attract customers for life and grow your business.
How are you handling tough customer conversations so you can grow your business?
Subscribe to our posts via RSS