Editor's Note:College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
For some young entrepreneurs just starting out, interacting with customers can be difficult and a little intimidating.
Yet, throughout my entrepreneurial and college journey, I've learned great communication is what makes both a company and an individual desirable to do business with.
For example, I find it enlightening to analyze a professor's interpersonal communication skills --body language, vocal tone and facial expressions -- while they're giving a lecture. Many of the traits I have observed, I've used to conduct my own business.
While I have used learning to better my skills, communicating with customers and clients still isn't always easy, especially when they are difficult. From my experience, it's often best to put your friendliest foot forward -- even when they seem more interested in getting under your skin.
If you are having trouble figuring out how to approach customers and make them feel comfortable, here are a few tips.
First impressions matter. How a client is spoken to on the phone, greeted by the receptionist, treated during their visit, the quality of the service and how they are told good-bye, all take part in the overall first impression of a business. These interactions will most likely determine whether the customer will be returning.
That said, try not to over complicate things. Simplicity, moderation and being consistent are key.
Don't get too personal. Depending on your industry and work environment, how personal the conversation gets will vary.
Consider only talking about yourself if the client directly asks about your life. Customers are not purchasing from your business to hear about how crazy your weekend was or that your girlfriend just broke up with you. Keep things simple, brief and polished when it comes to talking about yourself. For more on the finer points of banter, check out Elizabeth Bernstein's piece "Thank You for Not Sharing."
Also, touchy topics such as politics and religion should only come up if a client introduces them. Even then, try to steer clear of these sensitive subjects and keep the discussion to a bare minimum.
Remember at the end of the day, it is about selling your product or service.
Keep in touch. Building a solid and professional relationship with a customer takes time.
To help you manage these important contacts, use online marketing and communication platforms like Constant Contact or Salesforce, which allows for a company to easily stay in touch with their customers and inform them on what's going on in the business.
Also, if your clients have Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts, these free tools allow for virtual face-to-face interaction -- great for communicating with clients in different cities. It allows for topics of discussion to be clearly understood, so there's no misunderstandings or confusion.
However, with everyone's lives being consumed by computers, social media and email, don't forget that telephones still exist. Sometimes a simple phone call can help quickly clarify issues.
You can never give too many high-fives. Always end things on a positive note when it comes time to say good-bye. At my salon Cauble Cosmetology I'm big on giving high-fives to customers when we part ways.
My motto: When an individual leaves a business they just spent money at, they should not just feel happy but also elated!
Your word is everything. My grandfather has been a cattle broker in America since the early '50s. One of the first lessons he taught me was to always keep your word. Once our word is broken, our credibility and reputation is put into jeopardy.
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