Founder of The Engaging Educator, a women-owned and operated company, Jen Oleniczak Brown provides helpful tips for improving your interpersonal communication skills.
Effective interpersonal communication is the key to exceptional customer experience. Think about it: interpersonal communication is the exchange of information between two or more people. When you’re thinking about a brand experience, when your customers care about your brand, their experience will be linked with that emotional connection. Since improv is all about listening and responding, building interpersonal communication skills to elevate customer experience is easier than you may think.
Cut the Fat
Interpersonal communication encompasses the face-to-face conversation we have every day, and we need to think about being as clear and concise as possible. Our customers are being bombarded with messages almost every moment of every day (unless they are hiding out without social media, internet or TV!)
Think back to the last time you felt overwhelmed with details? Did you seek more or did you just walk away overwhelmed?
Clear and concise communication not only helps our customers see what we are specifically offering them, it also removes the chance of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Words are a currency, and we only have so much money to keep the attention of our customers.
There’s an improv activity called “X Word” where you can only speak in sentences that contain X number of words, and X decreases as the activity goes on. While I don’t suggest you select a certain number of words, I do suggest halving your word count, and then halving again. Try to see how low you can go while keeping the same meaning and intent. Get rid of what you don’t need.
Listen with a Yes, and
Listening is a huge part of interpersonal communication: if you don’t listen, you’re simply just talking at someone, and they are talking at you…which isn’t fun.
Remember a time where you started thinking about something else while someone was talking or a time when you weren’t focusing on what was being said. Remember that customers are bombarded with messages constantly. Do you want to be more noise to them?
One of the best ways to not be noise is to listen and respond to your customer: thinking you know what’s best or what the customer thinks isn’t going to help you here. You have to pay attention to what they are saying, both in words and actions.
Improv is all about the Yes, and. In life, Yes, and is a great listening tool: use the “yes” to affirm what someone is saying, then use “and” to add information. For example, if you hear from a customer that they think your product is life changing, so maybe you think (or say!) “Yes, you think we’re life changing, and we want to help more people like you. Do you know people who need this?” Be sure when you yes, you are affirming what they are “saying” in either action or words.
Show, Don’t Tell
Ever see the brands that are constantly talking about how much their customers love them? How much they have changed people, but you never actually hear from the people that have been changed?
The phrase “Actions speak louder than words” is updated with improv’s ‘Show, don’t tell.” You can’t just say you’re doing amazing things for customers or changing lives. You have to show you’re doing these things. Anyone can say anything!
Yes, you’re going to end up saying a lot when you’re working with your customers. Make a rule of thumb to always back up everything you say with at least one action that is clear, simple and specific.
Improv isn’t the magic tool for customer engagement: it is a magic tool for interpersonal communication, and when you master that, you can apply it to your customer interaction and experience.
To read more from Jen Oleniczak Brown, check out her new book Think on Your Feet: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Impromptu Communication Skills on the Job.