How to Improve Business Communications
by: Carol Trehearn
Effective communication – both internal and external – is an essential skill to acquire if you want to run a successful business. Poor communication can reduce employee morale, lead to unnecessary duplication of work, cause deadlines to be missed and, of course, generate errors. From poorly worded email messages or confusing texts to verbal misunderstandings or messages that simply go missing, there are many areas where weaknesses can be addressed and eliminated. The following tips will ensure your business reaps the many benefits strong communication can bring.
|Communicate in real time
The huge advantage that face-to-face meetings or telephone calls have over email is that they allow communication to take place in real time, allowing decision to be made more quickly. As such meetings or discussion are not always practical, it is important to ensure that any communication delays within your company are kept to a minimum.
Take, for example, the procurement process that occurs place between yourself and your suppliers. If you had a ‘Supplier Portal’ in place it could instigate the display of real time information. Supplier Portals such as the ones offered by weaveability.com offer such functionality. Real-time communication means your business can make informed decisions without delay, increasing productivity and increasing efficiency within the supply chain.
Learn to listen
Always make a point of actively listening to what is your employees or your customers have to say, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. There is a huge difference between simply hearing and actually listening. If you are meeting in the flesh, turn to face the person you are speaking to and devote all of your attention to what is being said. Subtle clues in your body language will betray whether or not you are truly paying attention, and the person you are speaking to will be far more likely to engage with you if you can demonstrate that you are wholly focused on the conversation.
If you are being given important information, either over the telephone or in person, paraphrase back what the person has said to make sure you have to it right. Doing so not only helps to fix the information in your own mind but eliminates the possibility of miscommunication. This is especially useful if you find yourself pondering questions or thinking about a response while the person is talking, rather than fully focusing on what they are saying.
Ensure your staff are speaking to one another
If your business is suffering from low employee morale or there have been issues with communication between different members of staff or different departments, consider arranging a team project or activity that requires everyone to work together. You need not go to the expense and trouble of arranging a team-building weekend away – a simple task in which every member of staff has a chance to have their opinion heard, such as deciding on a new working practices or rearranging the office for greater efficiency, can work equally well. By getting everyone to work together towards a common goal, any barriers to effectively communication can be quickly dismantled.
Treat email like real mail
The fact that email is so quick and easy to use means it’s all too easy to bash out a message without a second thought. For formal communications, it’s always better to err on the side of formality, the way you would if you were writing a traditional letter. Before you send anything, read it through to ensure it is clear and cannot be misconstrued. Make edits for clarity if necessary.
You should also have a system of archiving old emails for individual customers or suppliers so that you have a record of what has been said in the past. Although many systems do this automatically, having such files saved in a specific folder will make it much easier to retrieve them should you need to.