Using bridges as an analogy for great communication is a pretty common theme for me and I believe it’s a message that occasionally bears repeating. Great communication is about building bridges between people. Like a bridge that facilitates transportation between two geographical points, a communications bridge acts as your platform to transmit information. It requires a solid foundation, pillars of support and the actual bridge span that connects the two. The definition of communication is this: “The development of skills in three critical areas: Listening, Language and Writing.” Think of these three skills as your pillars, foundation and bridge span. Communication is about sending a message and ensuring that message is both received AND understood. When communication fails, it’s because the bridge was left unfinished or because it crumbled, not having been built on a solid enough foundation.
The bridge could be your website, a blog, a video about your business, perhaps it’s a sales call to discuss your product or it takes place while you’re conducting a seminar in front of an audience. Whatever your “bridge” it is based on the premise of creating a two-way flow of information. (It’s important to note however, even a one – lane bridge allows traffic to flow in both directions, we just have to take turns! Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we did?)
Here are a few simple tips on how to build a better bridge to your customers:
- Keep your communication clear and concise. State your position (just the facts) using language that is precise and carefully chosen.
- Avoid over reliance on industry specific jargon – not every one “gets” it.
- Avoid excessive and unnecessary elaboration. Say more, with less.
- Ensure understanding by soliciting feedback.
- Encourage two-way dialogue by asking questions.
- When creating content for your website follow the techniques we have blogged about before: Treat web content like it was a Resume and answer the basic “Who, What, Where, Why and How questions.
- If you have a contact button on your website – RESPOND when people use it! Encourage the conversation. If you put a tollgate on your bridge, make sure it’s staffed otherwise no one is getting across and not answering a customer query means a lost business opportunity.
If communication is further defined as the ability to “express or exchange information” what else can you do in your business to ensure that exchange takes place? I would argue that listening is the single most important pillar of the communications bridge. In any relationship, business or personal, listening to the other person helps them to feel valued, that their opinion matters or that there concern has been addressed. By listening, I am referring to “listening to hear,” (to understand) not “listening to respond” (planning your comeback.) Listen to what your customer is asking for rather than trying to sell what you think he needs.
Just like a poorly built bridge, the stakes are high and the consequences long term. Perhaps you read about the recent collapse of the Nipigon River Bridge, severing the Trans-Canada Highway, the only road linking Eastern and Western Canada. It’s not only an enormous and costly mistake for the bridge builders but has long term consequences for any business attempting to transport goods and services to its customers along this corridor. Similarly, what are some of the consequences of poor communications for your business?
- Lost business opportunities
- Angry employees or customers
- Poor sales
- Potential legal ramifications
- Long-term damage to your reputation
You may have heard the old saying; “If it’s worth saying, say it right the first time!” or my personal motto “Say only what matters because it matters what you say!” Either promotes the same message – good communication needs a solid base to “bridge” the gap between your customer and your business, between fostering good relationships and repairing bad. Communications is a bridge that runs both ways and if it doesn’t, it leads to nowhere.
As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed? Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.
Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.
Writing Right For You
Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!