Selling to and serving customers are important to businesses but how you talk to your customers will determine how well this goes. It’s not unheard of for customers to opt-out of doing business with certain suppliers or providers because they do not like the way they speak to them. Due to many economic challenges, Zimbabwe as a business environment is somewhat of a “take it or leave it” scenario. Where many businesses seem to see no reward in having good relations with customers. If you are of a different school of thought and see the benefit, then we’ve got some tips on how to talk to customers.

Mind your manners

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The last impression lasts forever. So you want to be mindful of how you speak to customers. Often when we have conversations about being polite and well-mannered people confuse it with being formal. You can be polite and still fit in with an informal culture or business environment. Just because you are selling on a street corner that is no reason to be untoward. Equally so just because you are in a position of power it is no reason to speak down on people. In minding your manners also remember to keep it uniform except for cases where you have to know the customer long enough to speak informally and freely but never leave your manners behind.

Ditch the jargon

One of the quickest ways to turn people off when it comes to the thought of you is to show them how much they do not know. That is universal. Do you know what customers like? When you show them how much they know. How do you show a customer how much they know even when they know nothing? Drop the jargon and speak in a relatable way. Even the most complicated of concepts can be related to something people can understand. No seriously, I have explained the concept of cryptocurrency using snooker tokens and stock market returns in multiple currencies using a ruler. You should be able to explain even the most complicated concepts in your work to a 6-year-old. And if you can’t explain it to one of these guys maybe you’re the one who doesn’t understand it.

Keep it positive

This is particularly difficult for Zimbabweans and is not our fault. When speaking to customers conjunctions like but and adverbs make people sceptical about what you are saying. Any statements that have the effect of qualifying your assertions make customers uneasy. The problem is in our vernacular languages those words are normally used in speech and not greeted with pessimism. I would therefore advise staying clear of them because you simply do not know how they will be received. This brings me to the next point…

Know your customers

Knowing your customers is all about knowing more than their names and their children.  It’s about knowing what matters to them. You can gain this information from understanding their experiences and motivations. An insurance company knows their customers are motivated by the risk of loss or have experience with loss. So they know their talking points with customers. So why are your customers, your customers? Sure they need tomatoes but they have at least 10 other options so why you? Once you know the why you can understand how to talk to them and about what.

Avoid conversation killers

Ambiguous questions such as “is there anything else I can help you with” are not as welcoming as we think they sound. The same goes for the “Have a good day”. They are polite but may not always achieve the actual goal. They end up being conversation killers. Instead what you want to do is use language and statements that invite the customer to stay in touch or allow you to stay in touch with the customer. “if you have any other issues in future please contact us”. You can use the opportunity to set up feedback by saying something like “all done now but please give us feedback on how we did” or “can we contact you in a week to see how you’re going”. Products and businesses differ so grasp the concept and that way you can apply it to different businesses.

Be sincere

Duplicity is easy to spot for discerning customers and those are the people you want as customers. So when you are not being completely sincere customers can pick it up. Instead of dealing with customers in a way that gets rid of them so you can get on to the next task. Sure sometimes it feels like that but the last thing we want our customers to do is to feel like that. Try to be sincere in all communication. It strangely is easier to be sincere in written communication like email and instant messaging even those these are the most tone-deaf methods. Also, instead of aiming to be done with a customer aim to solve their problem. A problem that is truly solved does not come up again.

Remember a conversation with a customer at any stage is just like a courtship conversation. Nobody is genuinely interested in knowing anybody else’s favourite colour but the information does help in relating to the other person in a short or long term relationship. The latter is what you want with your customers.