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What’s one technique to keep conversations with your customers productive and positive?
1. Be an active listener.
It’s not just important to effectively listen to your customers. You should strive to demonstrate to them that you have heard what they are trying to say. By often repeating a section of their comment or question back to them, you clearly demonstrate that you are following their thought process and not simply waiting to interject your own.
2. Share good news.
We are highly consultative, so results are not achieved overnight. I’m a firm believer in telling my clients what they need to hear versus what they want to hear. I also understand that they are paying me for a service, so it’s important to share good news with them anytime it’s available, no matter how small it is.
3. Put your customers’ needs first.
Many businesses want to sell the customer a product or service at any cost, whether it’s in their best interest or not. Putting your customers’ needs first means only selling them something that they’ll really benefit from. In the long run, this keeps your customers happy and improves your reputation. You don’t have to make everyone your customer. Focus on those you can really help.
4. Remember that the customer is always right.
It can be trying at times to maintain a positive attitude when speaking with difficult customers, but remember that just as you are a pro in your field, they are a pro at what they do as well. At the end of the day, the customer is always right and you’re there to make their lives easier with your product or service.
5. Empathize and then move forward.
Customers are people and have bad days just like the rest of us. Listen to their feedback, let them finish, then empathize and move the conversation in a more positive direction, focusing on where you can help fix their problem or how you can use their feedback to improve your products or services.
6. Imagine you’re speaking to a friend.
A strategy we use at our company when we are faced with difficult interactions with customers is to imagine that we are speaking to a friend. We treat friends with respect and value what we will get out of them long-term. This behavior sets you up for positive and productive interactions with your customers. This way you will have a guiding behavior that can be extended through your organization.
7. Prepare alternatives.
Be extremely detail-oriented, empathetic and understanding. Try to see things from the client’s perspective, but also envision all possible outcomes of every situation ahead of time. If for any reason you have to deliver bad news, be sure to have other comparable options and solutions ready to present at the same time, rather than just saying you can’t deliver on a certain request.
8. Don’t make them feel like a number.
A good company actually helps their customers and doesn’t just look at people as financial opportunities. Using words like “product,” “transaction” and “value” will make a person feel like just a line on a profit and loss sheet. Remember that you should be offering a helpful, worthwhile service in exchange for their money and time, and your tone and vocabulary should reflect that.
9. Talk about mutual benefits and achievements.
Focus the conversations on the mutual benefits and achievements to date. Also emphasize your interest in always seeking improvements, which is a good way to introduce the idea of “what can I do better” into the conversation without turning it into a negative.
10. Focus on their long-term goals.
To provide the best service to customers, your service needs to fit their long-term needs and not just the immediate ones they hired you for. They won’t always share this information when hiring your business, especially if it’s intended to be a short relationship. Figuring out their goals and talking honestly to them about how you could improve on them can build a basis for a long relationship.
11. Build a personal relationship.
Get to know your customers on a personal level. Building a real relationship is the best deterrent to customer issues and negativity. If customers feel as though they can reach you when needed to have a candid and honest conversation, they’re much less likely to get to the point where they’re truly unhappy.
12. Understand their intentions.
It’s important to know the difference between someone bringing up a legitimate concern and someone who is trying to stir up trouble. If your customer has good intentions, a productive and positive conversation should naturally flow. If someone is simply making comments just for the sake of it, chances of having a productive conversation are slim to none, so steer clear.
13. Finish the conversation with a list of action items.
Finish the conversation with quick bullet points summarizing everything you discussed and all the action items moving forward. This will keep you focused during the conversation and convey to the customer that you heard everything they had to say and have a clear plan on what to do next.
14. Ask about the future.
In the future, all things are possible. That’s not literally true, but I’ve found the best customer conversations focus on the future. Speak in the future tense about what you will do, how you will help, how your products provide value. Ask questions about what they want for the future and their goals. Don’t talk about what you have done or are doing. Talk about what you can do.
15. Choose to be helpful over being right.
Do you care more about being right? Or would you rather concede and keep your customer? There’s little you can gain by pointing out that a customer is wrong. When confronted with an argument, choose to feed your business and not your ego.