23/03/2016 by Lavina Webb
Our love affair with smart phones and tablets shows no signs of abating, and it has been said that genuine face-to-face communication is the first major casualty of our reliance on electronic devices to transmit information. This would be a great pity as it is through genuine and respectful communication that we reach real understanding. A key part of this process is through listening and clarifying ambiguous responses with questioning.
Listening and Questioning – Two Essential Components
Effective communication, therefore, is not about talking at others but seeking feedback, listening to opinion and comment and then, taking action where required. This is our approach to discussions with our clients and we have sometimes had to take the good with the bad. Although we pride ourselves at Charter Partners on our service delivery to our clients, there is always room for improvement.
Negative Feedback – An Opportunity for Growth
No person or organisation can be perfect all the time, and those who think otherwise are deluding themselves. We generally get excellent feedback from our clients, and although it is a great morale booster, innovation and improvement often comes as a result of negative feedback. An adverse report should attract management attention, and be the focus of investigation to seek the facts and, if needed, change a process or an approach.
Ask Questions – Seek the Cause of the Problem
We have found that, on the rare occasions where there has been a misunderstanding between ourselves and a client, asking specific questions about the issue helps us get quickly to the real cause of the problem. If an omission or error has occurred on our part, we correct it immediately, and advise the client of the outcome. This last step is important, because it is the final proof to the client that their concerns have been addressed and their trust in us is restored.
Build Trust – Act on Information
This is really the heart of the matter. In our business as accountants and business advisors, the trust of our clients is something that is hard won, and not to be taken lightly. It is the foundation of our ongoing relationship with them, and, from that trust, comes repeat business and referrals. Knowing that we are prepared to listen to and act on negative feedback is information that is valued by new clients.
When we ask pertinent questions about their business, our clients know we are seeking the information we need to improve our service delivery and the quality of our business advice. When we listen to their responses they know that we are serious about matching our services to their needs.
Some of our best ideas have come from open and honest communication with our clients. We use these experiences to improve as an organisation and this in turn helps our client businesses to also improve.