Build Customer Relationships in 3 Seconds

DISCLAIMER: The suggested language improvement covered here may (at first) seem way too simple to have a major, positive impact on your business. Trust me, it will…

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If we agree that building quality Sales and Customer Service relationships at every touch point is our #1 priority, then our language choices should always be consistent with this goal.

The crucial 3 seconds where we introduce ourselves at the beginning of every business phone call actually has the power to make or break these relationships. What may seem like a throwaway, introductory phrase we’ve said thousands of times, now becomes a useful tool that relieves frustration and/or enhances already positive opportunities.

Let’s start by taking a quick look at how you currently introduce yourself. Think about it for a moment… you dial the phone, someone answers, and you say something like:

“Hi, my name is Mark with ABC Company…”

Or maybe you use a version that’s a bit more personal, especially when you already know the person:

“Hi, this is Mark from ABC Company…”

Both sound pretty good, right? Standard introductions that millions of professionals like us use every day. Neither are rude, indifferent, or too casual. On the surface, it doesn’t appear there’s anything bad going on here.

But when we take a closer look,  seemingly professional phrases using combinations of “my name is” and “with” or “from” supplement the perception that it’s the company on one side and the customer on the other. If we’re always trying to use language to put ourselves on the side of the customer working towards a solution, why would we use separative language that essentially says, “I’m over here and you’re over there”?

So how do we avoid inadvertently creating minor or major separation depending on the situation? Simple:

“Hi, this is Mark over at ABC Company…”

When we change “my name is” to “this is,” and “from” or “with” to “over at, we’re sending a message that we have a relationship. This small language tweak helps set the ball rolling for all kinds of great things to happen. Here are a few examples from different business segments:

Customer Service
It’s no secret that in modern-day business, the mere mention of “Customer Service” brings eye rolls, sighs, and horror stories. So when calling someone who is likely experiencing combinations of fear, frustration, and anger manifesting itself as an expectation of an impending bad experience, using this collaborative language – with a helpful tone – helps us avoid inadvertently adding to or creating an “us vs. them” communication environment from the very start.

There are few things I find more annoying than getting a call from a salesperson pretending like they already know me (NOTE: I’m amazed that sales people still use this ridiculous bait-and-switch tactic). Using “over at” softens a sales introduction for both new and existing relationships. I particularly like “over at” for prospecting geographical proximity (B2B & B2C) and vertical markets (typically B2B) where there’s a good chance the person we’re calling is already aware of our company/organization.

Field Service
When I train field technicians there’s a module where we create customized Call on the Way scripting, which includes “over at.” I often get feedback from these field professionals about how they can now hear relief on calls they previously thought were just “I’m on the way” notifications. By using “over at,”they’re now sending a message that we’re already on the side of the customer and that their needs are a priority. I also hear how when they arrive at the house, the customer’s demeanor is more calm. Just like in Sales and Customer Service, if we’re already bringing relief to frustration, how is the customer’s later reaction to suggested solutions? And from a larger perspective, what does this do to the customer’s perception of our brand and ultimately the company’s overall profitability?

We all know that building inter-personal and inter-departmental relationships is as important as building customer relationships. I’ve found simple language improvements have helped eliminate long standing inter-departmental feuds. Even without existing walls between personnel and/or departments, tiny improvements in communication have a wide-reaching, positive impact on an organization. For example, I was recently discussing “over at” in a meeting with an HR Manager at a Fortune 500 company I’m working with. We talked about the pang of fear when someone picks up the phone and hears, “Hi, Jim, this is Mark from HR” even when they’ve done nothing wrong. While none of us wants a call from HR, there are certainly less alarm bells when we hear:

“Hi, Jim, this is Mark over in HR…”

As you think about the above examples, and how this simple change may apply to your day-to-day interactions, it’s staggering to realize how even subtle tweaks in communication can have a profound impact on your organization’s culture, brand, and related profitability.

Maybe take some time to repeat the old way and new way out loud to hear (and feel) the difference. If you’re like many of the people I’ve trained over the years, the real epiphany happens after experiencing positive results with customers and co-workers. Then, you won’t be able to imagine introducing yourself the old way.

After you and/or your team implement this simple change, I’d love to hear your feedback!

By | February 26th, 2018|Branding, Communication Tips, Training|Comments Off on Build Customer Relationships in 3 Seconds

Welcome to the Re-Brand

Breathing life into our client’s brands is what we love to do. So it feels kind of strange to do it with our own brand. Giving an 11-year-old company a fresh paint job has been fun and interesting. But underneath the fresh coat of paint, what’s actually changed?

Over the last 15 years as a media design and communication training consultant, my focus was typically more on the marketing, branding, and design side. That has changed quite a bit over the last several years.

I found crafting communication structures and training to be as creative as any marketing, branding, or design project. So while our unique value-add has always been the mix of marketing and communication training — leveraging over 25 years of communication and sales training experience — we finally made the decision to shift the main company focus to training. Why?

How often do we hear groans when someone says:

“So I had to call <insert company here> customer service this morning…”

When did “customer service” become such a cringe-worthy phrase? I can’t stand to watch clients make huge branding and marketing investments only to have the customer relationship destroyed from the moment they hear an indifferent, “Can I help you?” (which, by the way, should be, “How can I help you?”)

So while we will continue to be a valuable resource with our unique blend of branding and training, the primary focus on building communication structures ensures that we continue to help our clients… build brands from the inside out.

Perhaps the biggest change is for Allison Strauss. A 28+ year veteran of the restaurant industry, Allison has worked in every area of the business from high-end fine dining to country clubs. After spending 14 years as a GM with Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse — a Chicago restaurant institution and one of the most successful, fine dining restaurant groups in the country — Allison made the decision to move to full-time restaurant consulting 2 years ago.

Bringing her wealth of knowledge, experience, and expertise with building teams, Allison is helping both new and existing restaurants with every aspect of the restaurant business. From training staff and management on guest communication and service standards, to inventory, forecasting, P&L, and marketing, she’s able to position restaurants for continued success in an what can be a volatile industry.

What’s Next?

As a national, Chicago-based consulting company, we are able to travel anywhere to help companies succeed. Watch this space for communication skills and tips to help a variety of industries and feel free to drop us a note to discuss how we can help build your brand!

By | December 2nd, 2015|Branding, Communication Tips, Restaurant Tips|Comments Off on Welcome to the Re-Brand