(June is Effective Communication Month. I love studying the impacts of how we communicate, so you will see multiple posts this month about effective communication, communication styles, etc. )
Communication is a tricky thing. Sometimes even when we think we are perfectly clear in our communication, something gets lost along the way.
Why worry about communication?
- Good communication generally results in good relationships.
- Bad communication generally creates stressful relationships.
Good communication is crucial to any successful business, but it’s even more crucial in a small business where owners and employees wear many different hats. Good communication can help you retain great employees and customers; poor communication can cost you both.
I see the cost of poor communication on a pretty regular basis, costing businesses employees and customers. What does poor communication look like?
- Incomplete or inaccurate work expectations: It’s my contention that most employees come to work wanting to do a great job. Unfortunately, there have been many times in my experience that incomplete explanation of work expectations has resulted in employees either quitting or getting fired. In general, supervisors have a pretty clear idea of employee expectations, unfortunately they may not communicate fully and clearly to the employee, resulting in a negative work relationship between. Suffer too many of these negative instances and talented employees will quit or get fired, resulting in expensive recruiting, hiring, and training. Clearly-defined employee expectations will save a company thousands of dollars in the long run.
- Incomplete documentation of job responsibilities: When employees wear many hats, the line of responsibility sometimes gets blurred about who is supposed to do what within the organization. Without clear definition of each employee’s responsibility and timeline for completing tasks, there is a grey area about who is doing what, when. I worked with a small business where no one was assigned to monitor some pretty important daily tasks, which resulted in financial challenges, lost customers, and a facility that left a less-than-desirable impression on customers.
- Financial transactions: To maintain a good credit score (which will result in more favorable banking rates) financial paperwork must be handled in a timely fashion. Successful businesses see value in invoicing customers frequently; paying creditors within agreed-upon terms; making bank deposits daily in order to take advantage of any available interest on the account; etc. Not making smart financial decisions can cost your company hard-earned profits and credibility.
- Responses to customer inquiries: Without clearly-defined responsibilities about who and how often voicemail and e-mail communication is addressed may result in potential customers being ignored. With customers’ increasing use of technology, it is more important than ever that these responsibilities and expectations be clearly defined.
- Maintenance: Although it may seem that routine maintenance items don’t need to be assigned, it is critically important that they are. Making sure supplies are purchased, rest rooms are clean, light bulbs are replaced, etc. is a clear reflection on how well your business functions and how customers view the professional level of the company.
- Incomplete or inaccurate paperwork: Determining the cost of inaccurate paperwork is relatively simple when you know the cost of employee time and raw materials. Here are just a couple:
- Unnecessary time spent when a client’s physical address is inaccurate for a field representative will result in wasted time for the employee and frustration on the part of the client who will be waiting extra time for a service call. We’ve all heard stories about “waiting all afternoon for the cable guy” which generally results in bad-mouthing the business and loss of future sales. As business owners, we can’t afford the bad press.
- Poor handwriting has resulted in more time and materials waste that almost anything. Examples can be as simple as incorrect phone numbers and addresses; the difference between ¼” and ½” when we are cutting a client’s materials to certain specifications; or the difference between a client wanting their work done on the 1st or 7th day of the month. Any time written documentation isn’t 100% clear it’s costly to our business.
Clear communication about work expectations, documentation of responsibilities, and accurate paperwork will save your business time, money, frustration and customers. What impression does your communication give about you and your company?