Seven months ago, most of us were thrust into a new way of conducting business. With new methods of conducting business comes many opportunities. We have all seen the Zoom video call bloopers online where someone thinks their camera is off, but it isn’t. Perhaps a child roams into the picture, and a bevy of other mishaps that have found their way into many compilations online. Some of these mistakes are mortifying to say the least but they are also humanizing, and can be used as ice breakers.
One mistake that I consistently see, that is completely preventable, is body language. Like many of you, video meetings are a normal part of my day. I have calls with colleagues, and also clients, and I have noticed a consistent opportunity when it comes to body language and video calls. Just because you are on a video call versus an in-person meeting, does not mean that normal business rules go out the window! Your body language matters. You would never look at your phone while you were in an in-person meeting, so why is it different for an online video call? Don’t think that you can check your emails real quick or see who that Slack notification is from without your meeting attendees noticing.
The temptation to look at your phone or email inbox is great while on a video call. This is especially true if you are attending an online call as a fly on the wall (meaning you do not have a speaking role, you are there to take notes and observe). Even though you do not have a role in the meeting, you still need to show engagement. A big sigh, slouching in your chair, head tilted to the side, these are all indicators that you have left the building and the very last thing you want to do is be on that video call. Is that really the message you want to send to your clients and colleagues?
Sit up straight, shoulders back, chin up, smile, nod. Your body language speaks volumes about you.
How do I communicate this to a colleague or direct report? Good question. An authentic way to bring this up would be to use yourself as an example. Explain how you became aware of this opportunity. Another way is to record your next video call and share it with the relevant people. I recently did this for myself (hence, this post) and discovered not only that my body language left a lot to be desired, but I also said “Ummm” way too many times.
Be aware of your body language. Make sure that your body language is matching the same message that you/your colleagues are attempting to communicate in your meetings.
Every email you receive from your customers is a gift and it should be treated as such. They don’t have to contact you. The fact that they are taking time out of their day (time that they will never get back) to tell you how your product can be better is a gift in itself. Your responses should have a consistent tone of appreciation of this gift. In a perfect world, all of the requests from our customers would be clear, to the point, and free of emotions. Unfortunately we are not in a perfect world so it is important for your employees understand how to decode what a customer is really trying to tell you. This type of thinking needs to come from the top down in order for it to be adopted by the entire team and it has to be repeated often until it becomes part of your culture.
Customer emails include tons of fluff, emotions, and can be a bit wordy. Because of this your team can easily get distracted and lose touch and the opportunity that sits in front of them. It is important to consistently train your team to understand why a customer is contacting you. Here are a few examples that may help:
“I want to give you my money, but I don’t understand how. Can you please help me?”
It is a pretty bold statement and you may never see it verbatim but that is what most of your customers are trying to tell you when they contact you. If a request like this is not obvious, it is helpful to put yourself in the author’s shoe as they were writing it and ask yourself what they were trying to achieve when writing their email. Not everyone gets to the point and you may have to sort through a long email to get the gist of it but the main takeaway is that your customers are trying to give you money but are not sure how to do that. If you respond with this grateful tone, your customer will feel validated in giving you that money.
“I love your products but they would work so much better for me if you added “X” feature.”
This one is tricky because you can get trapped in a rabbit hole if you are not careful. That being said, if you trained your customer service team to handle these requests properly, and had them current on the company sprints and company direction, you can free up random requests in your JIRA queue and get some real gems from the people who are paying to use your product. It can be a slippery slope to deflect requests that will not serve your company short or long term because you don’t want to hurt anyones feelings and you want to avoid discouraging feedback. So how to navigate this? Be honest. Candor can go a long way with your customers (and employees). “Thanks Joe Blow for bringing that up. Our Product Team has had that feature on the road map since last June but scrapped it in favor of “X” feature which accomplishes “Y” and also “Z.” A clever and honest response may take a bit more time than a regular macro but it pales in comparison to tying up your JIRA queue with another request that will die a slow death. Be honest and tactful with your customers, they will respect you for it.
“I like your product, but it just doesn’t work for me”
These can be one of the most difficult emails to handle for your customer service team. Most people who work in customer support are empathetic and their DNA wants them to solve every problem and they feel an emptiness when they are not able to help. The truth is that your product is not going to work for everyone. When your customers come to this realization, they are frustrated, stressed and sad because they initially thought they found a solution but for whatever reason your product is not it. Chances are these requests will be “spicy” and likely will have a negative tone. Once you have come to the conclusion that your product is not the right fit for them you need to help them so they do not feel like they wasted their time. Your goal should be to leave your product/company with a good taste in their mouth. While your product may have not worked for them, it will work for someone they know and your handling of this exit will increase your chances at acquiring a customer or two from their departure. How to accomplish this? One way would be to understand what they were trying to accomplish with your product and where your product fell short. Then you can make suggestions on other products that may be a better fit. Again, this can be a slippery slope so you need to put on your kid gloves and make sure your communication comes across in a genuine way. For example, “Thanks for giving us a try, we really appreciate your time invested. While our platform may not be the best solution for you, have you considered “X” product? They have “X” feature which checks all of the boxes you are after and if you sign up at this link you will get a free trial. If you do deicide to give that a try, let us know if it is a viable option so we can continue to refer others (or not). If you happen to know of anyone else who may be a good fit for our platform we sincerely appreciate your referral.”
Treat your customers requests for what they are, a gift. They are trying to make you better. Listen to them. Decode what they are really trying to tell you and give them what they want so you can get what you want.
Rarely will you ever see “Active Listening” as a requirement on a job post. It is assumed that you will listen as we all do. The challenge is that most people listen with the sole intent to reply. So what is the difference? In simple terms, Active Listening is listening with the intent to understand vs listening with the intent to reply.
I recently shared this with my son. We were having a conversation and I could see that he was innately listening with the intent to reply, as his father has done so most of his life. I shared with him the difference between the both and it was like a lightbulb went off. The very next time we were talking he reminded me about active listening and I could not have been more proud of him for even understanding the concept (and the importance), and adopting it so soon!
There are several blogs out there with keen insight to active listening. For example, here is a helpful blog that lists the visual cues of an active listener. While all valid, it is pretty simple to spot someone who is actively listening by actively listening to them!
When you actively listen in business, you are freeing up your mind to understand your customer. You are taking off your manager hat and you are listening to your employees to thoroughly understand their position. When someone feels heard, they feel valued. A valued customer or employee is less apt to seek out another suitor. People who feel heard will tell you everything you need to know. Extra credit tip: This works amazing on significant others too!
Finding negativity in your everyday life is easy to do. One does not have to look far. We all have friends and acquaintances who offer the negativity “gift” on a daily basis. What you do with this gift is what counts. You can choose to accept the gift and re-gift it to others in the same wrapping paper (probably the most innate action), or you can choose to accept the gift and change the wrapping paper before you re-gift it, and/or keep the gift for yourself.
Negativity is an opportunity. When you are faced with negativity from another person or a situation, it is completely within your control how to accept it or not accept it. Some may challenge you to not accept the gift at all, and that is a fine action. However, why let that gift go to waste? Why not accept that gift and create an opportunity?
If someone tells me with negative tones that I dance like a robot, I would probably laugh first. Then I would thank them for their astute observation. Then I would take their gift and do two things. The next time I was dancing I would make sure to rock the robot like no one has ever rocked it before. Then I would make it a point to compliment my dance partner on her great moves or offer that same compliment to another on the dance floor. The recipient feels good, the sender feels good, and I am also rocking the robot. Can you say win-win?
Don’t let negativity dictate your energy. Use negativity to empower your actions and choose happiness.