Why You Can’t Afford to Have Poor Communication in Your Small Business

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There was a young man driving his car home on the expressway one evening, when he heard a loud bang and felt his left rear tire blow out. He pulled the car over on the shoulder of the expressway. Once he got out of the car, he could see he had a flat tire. What made things even worse is that he had forgotten his cell phone at home, so he had no way to contact a towing company.

He went into the trunk of his vehicle and pulled out the spare tire and a jack. It was getting close to evening and the sun was setting. He noticed cars were whizzing by just a few feet away from the tire he was about to change. So, he decided to put on his headlights to make his vehicle as visible as possible.

As luck would have it, the tire that he was attempting to change, had not been rotated for at least a couple of years, and the lug nuts were rusted onto the wheel bolts. It took him a long time to finally change the tire, and when he got back in the car and tried to start it, you guessed it; he had a dead battery.

He got out of the car and started waving a white flag, and before he knew it, a little old lady pulled up behind his car. He went over and explained his situation and asked if she might have a pair of jumper cables. She did not, but, then the young man thought of an idea. Since he had a manual transmission, he knew if he could get his car up to 25 miles per hour, he could pop the clutch and could start the car manually. All he needed to do was to convince the woman to give him a push with her car.

He explained, since the back bumper of his car was about the same height as the old woman’s front bumper, all she had to do was push his car with hers to “get him up to 25 miles per hour” and he could start his car. She looked a little confused, so he explained it to her again. Finally, she seemed to understand, and with that the young man got back into his car and put it into neutral and waited for the old woman to give him “a push.”

He waited and he waited and he waited until finally he looked in his rear view mirror and to his surprise, the old woman was coming right at him, at “25 miles per hour!” Ouch!

This story is a good illustration of what can happen when we don’t take the time to clearly communicate our ideas to other people.

According to Chip Wilson, CEO of 360 Solutions, recent surveys, reveal that communication is still an unresolved issue for many companies. “SIS International Research discovered that 70% of small to mid-size businesses claim that ineffective communication is their primary problem. Communication issues are not just annoying; they are also costly. It is not possible to underestimate the importance of effective communication skills, especially at the managerial level.”

One way to understand how miscommunication is costing your company is to identify the last miscommunication that took place between an employee and a customer. Ask yourself how much did it cost to rectify the problem with the customer? How much did it cost you in parts, rework, employees wages and benefits to fix what could have been avoided through clear communication.

Multiply that figure times the number of customer miscommunications you have over a twelve month period of time. My guess is that you will be shocked at how much money you are flushing down the toilet through poor communication.

When someone tells me they don’t have time to make sure they are communicating clearly to all of their customers and employees, I tell them they don’t have enough time not to take the time to properly communicate with them.

Where do you and your employees communicate to your customers?

How do you communicate to them? How well do you communicate?

Here is a list for some of the ways my clients tell me they communicate with their customers:

In Writing

• Contracts

• Policies

• Invoices

• Signage on service vehicles

Over the Telephone

• Phone calls

• The message they leave on their customers voice mail

• Their company’s message on hold

• Their company’s voice mail

Electronically:

Emails

Company newsletters

Texting

In Person

One on one meetings

Sales presentations

How about some of the ways you communicate with your employees?

In Writing:

Performance appraisals

The stub on your employee’s pay checks

Policies and procedures manual

Over the Telephone

• Phone calls

• The message they leave on their customers voice mail

• Their company’s message on hold

• Their company’s voice mail

Electronically

In-house company newsletters

Texting

Emails

In Person

Company periodic meetings

Company parties

Company retreats and strategic planning sessions (Do you even have these very important meetings?)

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, go back and grade yourself and your employees in each category on the level of communication you have with your customers and each other.

If you are not happy with what you find, rest assured that this problem will not go away by itself.

One way to prevent problems in communication is to simply ask the other person to repeat back what you have spoken, to make sure that what you said was heard in the way you intended. If we can do this on a regular basis, we will avoid the surprises that can come with miscommunication.

Other ways are to solicit feedback from your customers and your employees on a regular basis. There are a number of ways I help my clients do this. Feel free to contact me for some ideas on how I can help your small business do a better job with internal and external communications.

So, in order to make your company more profitable and successful, work on your communication processes. You will be glad you did and so will your customers and employees.

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