How would you rate your own internal customer communication capabilities? Let’s start with the basics.
Does everyone on your team – your internal customers – understand what you are saying? How about everyone else in your company with whom you collaborate?
People do business with people they understand. If your own team cannot comprehend what you are saying to them, how do you expect external customers to successfully understand you?
Hint: Head bobbing during meetings is not a sign of successful internal customer communication.
Another Hint: Implementation of strategy falls short of what was “communicated.” Project post mortem reveals there’s an internal customer communication disconnect, if not a humongous communication gap.
And wait, there’s more: Your internal team brings additional members (technical or business) onboard to work on a project with external clients. The conversation goes south because it becomes very apparent to your external customers that your team has an internal customer communication issue.
The reason for lack of successful internal customer communication? People do not want to admit they do not understand what someone is saying. They don’t want to look “stupid” in the eyes of their peers.
It just could be that no one else understands what someone is talking about, either.
Recently I coached an absolutely brilliant researcher who is CEO of a startup. She has equally beyond-brilliant folks collaborating with her. The problem? The brilliant folks are communicating at a level 30,000 feet above where investors and sponsors are operating from. In essence, the technical team members are talking to themselves.
The rest of the team, the non-STEM folks, cannot grasp the value of the scientific offering. Their business level of comprehension is about 10,000 feet for the science – but it is 60,000 feet when it comes to commercialization, growth and expansion. In essence, the business and finance teams are talking to themselves as well.
As a result, the business folks are not able to understand the possibilities of the technology. Everyone is spinning their wheels and frustration is growing.
The same holds true for established companies, regardless of their size and longevity in the marketplace. People assume that everyone understands what everyone else is talking about – because they work for the same company.
That assumption simply is not true in most circumstances. However, very few professionals inquire about clarity of communication when collaborating with their team and other internal customers. They do not want to admit that people are talking 20,000 feet above their level of comprehension.
And so it goes. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Successful internal customer communication is your first priority in the workplace. Your first order of business is asking a simple question: “Does everyone understand what I am talking about?” If the response is silence and head bobbing, that is your signal that you are in trouble.
Let’s work together to create an effective protocol for successful internal customer communication. Your collective, collaborative targets?
- Context. Make sure everyone has all the available information about the circumstances surrounding the decision to be made, the design or solution to be developed, and/or the strategic direction to be embarked upon.
- Clarity. Make sure everyone is crystal clear about context, as well as their respective and interactive roles moving forward. If not, repeat #1.
- Confidence. Some projects test individual team members’ self-belief more than others. Some projects make team members skeptical or uncomfortable. Some projects test each other’s trust in one another. Clarify.
If you tend to avoid interacting with or marginalizing certain internal customers, determine whether it is a matter of lack of understanding of context, clarity or self-belief and trust.
Start doing business with all of the valuable internal workforce resources available to build a successful team. Make sure that internal customers successfully understand what everyone else is saying.
You will start to see a positive impact on the success of your external customers, as well. Why? Because of successful implementation of your internal team communication strategy.
Have an internal customer communication gap between your sales and technical / engineering folks? Download my latest White Paper for a solid dose of strategy for starters. Contact me to work on tactics and methods.
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, strategist, speaker and coach focused on customer success for customer retention. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring and developing collaborative technical and non-technical employees. As a sales newbie, Babette walked into her first manufacturing plant – a slaughterhouse in Oklahoma – over 25 years ago. She fell in love with manufacturing. She serves manufacturing- and engineering- intensive companies, focusing teams on creating enduring business outcomes. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Visit the Free Resources section of her website for more tools.
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