Don’t Let Communication Be Your Failing
The skill and will to communicate more effectively separates the great systems integrators from those that are merely good. Learn problem warning signs and corrective measures.
I recently had an opportunity to work with 25 technicians and installers on a program titled “Effective Communication Skills for Technicians and Installers” at a tech show in May. We spent 100 minutes together to explore the ways poor communication can disrupt a business operation internally and customer service externally. They worked in teams and an amazing thing happened after they shared some experiences. They started to communicate actively and energetically with each other!
You may be thinking, “What do good communication skills have to do with the convergence market?” Everything, if you are building a competitive advantage for systems integration in your chosen markets. Your customers listen to your frontline troops very carefully. Their words, body language and communications carry quite a bit of weight. They can have a significant impact on the perception of how your customers view the value of your services. And we all know first impressions can be lasting and difficult to alter in the future.
Dealing With Difficulties in the Field
See if any of the following scenarios are familiar to you or your team:
1) Your customer was “confused or mistaken” about what the system they bought can actually do (perception vs. reality) and they took it out on the technician or you, as the manager.
2) A manufacturer provided less than stellar training for your technicians and they found themselves on the frontlines with customers figuring it out as they went. Just how does this build confidence in your company?
3) The salesperson “forgot” to mention a little “something special” that was not included in the original paperwork, leaving the technician or installer in a very awkward position.
4) The customer was not properly trained on how to use the intrusion, access control or video surveillance system (their side of the story) and now blames your company for the malfunctioning system.
5) Your dedicated and skilled installers finished a beautiful installation and when it came time to train the customer, only the janitor showed up. Nothing against janitors; I pushed a broom and mop around for two years to pay for my Catholic high school education. If confused, refer to No. 4 above.
These scenarios all exemplify SOCP (Suboptimal Communication Protocol); keep reading this column and you will eventually build up an impressive library of nonsensical acronyms. Actually, this one is pretty darn important as the impact of SOCP can be crucial to your company’s reputation, word-of-mouth referrals and, ultimately, operational budgets. Since early prevention of SOCP is recommended, let me give you some examples of the telltale symptoms to diagnose this dreaded disease. These are often directed at the technicians and installers who deal with unsatisfied customers:
- “I thought I told you about … ”
- “You should have known better … ”
- “Why didn’t you just call me … ?”
- “The customer said what to you … ”
- “You said what back to the customer …!”
The heartbreak of SOCP is that it can infect any systems integrator and all of us anywhere anytime.
Clear communication is vital to all things that touch your security systems business, and is especially important when you deliver network-centric solutions. Convergence solutions are complex from a technical standpoint. Successful implementation requires interfacing with a wide range of customer departments. IT is always a critical team that must be engaged early and often before, during and after the system solution is delivered. Not only do our brothers and sisters in IT speak a different language, they attach special meaning and accent to communication accuracy … first time, every time.
While your technicians can probably read, speak and write IT language, the subtleties of how it is delivered can make all the difference between the expectation of 99.999% accuracy in communication and a down network — batten down the hatches for everyone involved!
Formulating Better Success
Now that you realize what is at stake and assuming you want a well-oiled, converged customer service team that delivers good profitability, let’s go over what can be done.
The formula, yes there is math involved, is 5W + H = $. While I cannot take credit for the first part of this formula as journalists have used this approach forever, the result is something you must absolutely own with your projects. A few straightforward communications practices will serve your teams and customers well. The following six steps will help inoculate you and your team against the SOCP scourge and attain the goal of a profitable project.
- Who is involved or impacted with this project?
- What is the real issue we are dealing with and solving?
- When must we act to resolve the issue and how quickly can it be resolved?
- Where does this situation need to be resolved — onsite or at your office?
- Why is it important to resolve this issue and what is the impact?
- How will problems be solved, communicated and resolved?
That all adds up to the equation’s $, basically more profitability, with happier employees and satisfied customers.
While this communication protocol is simple and straightforward, it is actually difficult to implement without some forethought, planning and perhaps some training. It starts by company leadership committing to improve internal communication processes. By starting internally with good communication processes, your teams will act in concert and deliver greater customer satisfaction.
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