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Are You Talking to Me? Teaching Your Techs to Talk to Cusomers

Customer Communication is Key to Your Pest Management Success

By David Moore, BCE, Dodson Bros

We talk about a lot of technical items as an industry.  Products, equipment, PPE, uniforms, and a number of other items that affect our businesses in so many ways.  One area that gets forgotten about is coaching your team on how to interact with the public.  How me communicate with our customers (or potential customers) tells them so much about you and what your business is focused on.

Communication is the art of transmitting information, ideas and someone’s attitude from one person to another.  Fundamentally, communication is the process of meaningful interaction between people.  Effective communication is a little different than just telling someone something.  Effective communication:

  • is two way
  • involves active listening
  • reflects the accountability of the speaker and the listener
  • utilizes feedback
  • is clear
  • achieves one or more of the goals of communication

The goals of effective communication are:

  • to get and give information
  • to persuade
  • to ensure understanding
  • to get action
  • to change behavior

Communication creates an image about you and your company as well.  Excellent communication can build positive and long-lasting relationships with customers.  There are many ways that we communicate.  There are many ways to communicate, but here are three key components of effective communication:

  • Verbal: The words we choose must be brief, succinct, and organized, free of jargon and do not create resistance in the listener. If you customer doesn’t understand what you are saying, then you message gets lost in translation
  • Para-verbal Messages: Has your significant other ever said to you “Its not what you said, its how you said it.”  Para-verbal messages refers to the messages that we transmit through the tone, pitch, and pacing of our voices.
  • Nonverbal Messages: We say more with our body language than with the words we are saying in many cases.  Our body language is the primary way that we communicate emotions: Facial Expression, Postures and Gestures.  These are all important with how we interact with our customers.

There are other components of effective communication that affect our interactions.  The rate of speech has a big impact on the message received.  Too fast, they may think you are impatient.  Too slow, and they may think you are disinterested.  Our general tone tells the customer what your attitude towards them or the job entails.  Another big one is our word choice.  Be clear and concise do not repeat the sentences more than twice however, repeat it if required.  Don’t throw out a bunch of big-fancy words or industry specific words trying to impress anyone.  Be clear and concise do not repeat the sentences more than twice however, repeat it if required 

We also need everyone to participate in active listening.  This includes a desire and willingness to try and see things from another's perspective.  It also requires that we suspend judgment and evaluation before we get the whole picture.  There have been many times when dealing with a customer that if you just let them talk to you, they will tell you everything that is going on with the account and how it is impacting them.  Many times, we will go to a customer’s location, and we have something in mind for what the problem is and what the solution is.  We as an industry will put on our blinders, because we are the professional.  By doing this you may be creating extra work and time required when the client will show and/or tell you where the problem is.  How many times have you thought after dealing with a different industry for something you need “If only they had listened to me.”  Stop.  Listen.  Think.  It will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Do give the customer your undivided attention.  Listen-truly listen.  Give your customer hones, direct, and comprehensive information.  Treat their ideas and concerns as critical and serious.  Don’t belittle their concerns.  And for goodness sakes, stop checking your phone when interacting with them. 

Tell the customer the why, how, and the larger picture reasoning as to why this issue is impacting them.  Don’t hold back bad news. Treat people as intelligent adults, they want to hear the truth.  A big thing that gets missed is managing expectations.  What do they need to do to accelerate their resolution?  Tell them everything that is causing the problem so they can act on the things they are capable of doing.  Review the service frequency, service length and a general time frame for them to start seeing results.  If you are selling a service to a customer and you have expressed to them that their resolution will be quick, but in fact it will be weeks or months long (yes, I am talking to you on the sales team), all you will do is build frustration and break down the trust between you and your customer.  Even if you solve their problem, that trust has been damaged.  They could have been a raving fan and told everyone that your team is the best, but because their expectations were not managed appropriately, they will tell everyone that the problem got solved but it took too long, or they will talk negatively about your team.  Neither is a good situation to be in. 

How you and your team engage with your customers goes beyond that immediate interaction.  This is how loyal customers are built.  This is how good/bad word of mouth happens.  This affect everything from growth to cancellations and everything in between.  All technicians should remember that the customer thinks of them as the business.  If you can have them like and appreciate everything you do, then it will make everyone’s job that much easier.

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