Do your account managers clearly understand their client’s desired outcomes?
This is essential if you want to help your customers achieve measurable results and have a six times longer lifespan.
You can take your great voice of customer (VOC) questions and make the exchange with the customer even better by improving your communication skills.
This is what Gail and Bruce Montgomery, co-founders of ExperienceYes discussed during their presentation at KAMCon 2023 titled, “Becoming a Business Relationship Ninja.” They took us through three essential communication skills that improve the quality of your customer interactions so you can help them achieve better outcomes.
According to Gail, “Gallup did a fabulous study about the top core skills needed in business today, specifically in Sales, Marketing, Customer Experience, and Account Management. They identified three skills that would help them bring value to their customers.” These skills are improv, emotional intelligence (EQ), and empathy.
Gail and Bruce proceeded to tell us more about each of these skills and their application plus how to improve your use of them with your customers.
Improv is about storytelling and being quick on your toes. It allows us to be more flexible, creative, agile, and able to deal with ambiguous times like today. The ability to improvise also enhances your ability to collaborate with your customers.
“There is a two-letter word that is arguably the most powerful word in the English language that stops collaboration in its tracks,” Bruce shared, “the word ‘No’.”
We are talented at saying ‘no’ in all sorts of ways without saying the actual word ‘no,’ such as ‘We’ll let you know,’ ‘We’ll take a look at it,’ total silence, ‘’I’d love to, but…’ And, the word ‘but’ is the universal negator of anything positive. In fact, you may say the word ‘but’ over 500 times a day and not be aware of it.
The problem with using the word ‘but’ or any type of ‘no’ response is that it triggers the release of cortisol in the part of the recipient’s brain responsible for risk mitigation. This creates a negative ‘fight or flight’ reaction every time they hear something they recognize as a ‘no’ type response.
The best way to prevent this sort of customer experience is to use ‘Yes, and’ instead of some version of ‘no.’ According to Gail, “If you can change the way your customers hear your response as being more collaborative, they will feel more connected to you.” That’s because you are acknowledging and validating them when you use this methodology.
For example, when your customer says to you, ‘Hey, I really need the product to do X, Y, and Z,’ your response can be, ‘I hear what you’re saying. That sounds important to you, and I’ll need to talk with my DevOps team to see if that’s possible.” The customer hears an acknowledgment and understands you will come back to them with an answer. This is effective as long as you get back to them with a response. Otherwise, they will see this new way of responding as a ‘no’ in the future.
Although you are as smart as you will ever be, you have the ability to increase your emotional intelligence (EQ). As Gail explained, “It’s really important because you need to understand, ‘What’s happening with myself’ and ‘How do I manage my response right now?’ even in a meeting when someone’s totally triggered you and you get so irritated with everything they’re saying.”
EQ is also having awareness of the room and having emotional reasoning where you make decisions based on the potential impact on everyone affected.
One aspect of this is understanding your own tendencies and how they may affect others. For example, if you are a problem-solver, you must be careful not to automatically kick into problem-solving mode when you perceive someone has a problem, because they may not want you to help solve it.
In the same way, something that another person does may be irritating to you even if that tendency is beneficial in other circumstances. That’s where having a high EQ helps you discern this and get past that feeling of irritation when interacting with that individual.
Empathy is critical. It is using our human skills to understand problems more effectively and then solving those problems IF the person is asking you to solve it.
“This is where we need to be careful because sometimes people will share a problem with us, and we assume they want us to solve it, but they don’t.” Gail explained, “So, understanding when that’s appropriate when it’s not, and creating that psychologically safe space to do that is important.”
Take the following steps to apply empathy in a conversation:
- Start with kindness in reaction to a concern or challenge expressed by a person.
- Seek to understand more deeply.
- Ask if there is anything you can do or any way you can support them with their issue.
This last piece is essential. You don’t want to launch into recommending what they should do to solve the issue unless they want you to. If you start responding to people with these steps, you will always win.
Improve Your Communication Skills
Start applying these three core skills to improve client communications and better understand how you can help them achieve their desired outcomes.
Leveraging improvisation gives you the ability to think on your feet so respond to customers in a more positive way, even if the answer is a new version of ‘no.’
Developing your EQ enables you to consider how people might react to you and understand your reactions to others so you can adapt to situations as they arise.
Finally, empathy helps you more deeply understand your customer’s challenges and how you can best help them achieve their desired outcomes.
These three skills will ultimately help you deliver results to your customers, so they have a longer customer lifetime value.
Looking for other ways to develop account management skills? Register for KAMGenius PLUS. The next cohort starts on October 12th.