A couple of days ago, my high school daughter was given the task to write a short essay on whether technology connects us or disconnects us. With marketing running through my veins for over 25 years, my curiosity was instantly piqued. I looked at her sweet face and asked, “What do you think?” Her answer was honest and predictable, “It connects us, because I can talk to my family in other states and talk to you whenever I need you.” “True,” I said. Probing further I asked, “Do you think technology disconnects us?” “Well, it can. We are not sitting down and playing board games that often and sometimes we choose to text rather than talk and look at each other.” “Yes!” I thought, my heart skipping a beat. Just like that it sank, when she closed our conversation with “but it connects us more than disconnects us.” And with that, she snapped a selfie and “Snapchatted” it to a friend. End of our face-to-face discussion. Sigh.
I have been quite active lately speaking to technology companies on the importance of building and maintaining rapport for business success. While technology, more specifically social media, plays a key role, it is truly the “soft skills” that make or break the relationship. I see this in my technology company, Secure Future Tech Solutions. When a client is disgruntled, or they PERCEIVE there is a problem, it is very seldom a tech skills issue. It is often an emotional issue of not having their needs met in a timely fashion or issues with an employee’s interpersonal skills.
Don’t get me wrong, keeping up with the “tech skills” no matter the industry you are in, is crucial to staying competitive, however, right alongside the tech training should be an equal emphasis on how your company is doing from a marketing and branding perspective. Client perception is reality. You need to prove to them you are tech savvy and capable of handling their corporate needs.
So what is the secret to success? There is not one magic answer. However, in a recent presentation to 400 IT business owners, I stressed the importance of adding “Image Strategy” to their marketing plans. I highlighted 5 key areas of your business that creates a positive first impression for prospects and builds trust with existing clients. They are:
- Branding Consistency is Key – Take a “big-picture” look at how your company appears. Better yet, ask your clients and close friends to point out their perception of your company. Are you using the same logo on all your marketing collateral, website, social media sites, presentations, etc.? Inconsistency will determine whether you are viewed as an amateur or professional.
- There is NO EXCUSE for Sloppy Employees – This starts from the top. Clothing and grooming matter. You and your employees represent your business. A sloppy appearance is often interpreted by many as not being educated, lazy, lack of respect for an organization, and so on. This does not mean you need an elaborate dress code. If you are in the service industry for example, provide shirts or jackets with logos on them. Insurance industry, enforce a business casual dress code.
- Answer The Phone With a Smile, Or Risk Losing Client Trust – In a sales and service department, the phones take a front-seat role to departmental success. While texting and email is often unemotional or misconstrued as negative, there is no hiding your TONE of voice. Remember we are focusing on client perception. If we sound soft and aloof, the prospect on the other end might think that the entire company is disinterested in their business. However, consistently answering the phone with the a jovial, clear tone and the same script, sends a message to the caller that you are present and ready to help.
- Beware of Body Language – “We Listen With Our Eyes.” In other words, our actions speak louder than our words. It’s human nature to make instant assumptions about a person’s education, economic status, emotional state, etc. just by looking at them for the first time. Be aware of nonverbal gestures such as a slouching posture, clicking of your pen during a meeting, rolling your eyes when you don’t agree. We want to bring clients, employees and prospects into our fold, not repel them.
- Grammar Speaks Volumes – Poorly worded communications frustrate clients and members of the team, which leads to unnecessary confusion. It also makes your company look uneducated and not detail oriented. Take the time to have someone else review your work. Use the spell check and grammar check built into Microsoft Office and many other platforms. Lastly, save acronyms such as BTW (By the Way) and TTYL (Talk to You Later) for text messages on your phone! Don’t assume everyone knows what they mean.
Image strategy is an on-going process. It takes weeks, months, even years to change procedures and modify behaviors to meet the needs of “today’s” clients, employees and prospects. And just when you think you’ve got it down, it needs to be tweaked again to meet new demands!
Begin by sending a Customer Satisfaction survey to your clients or ask them for testimonials on how you are doing. Some feedback will be great and some will reveal gaps in your service that need immediate attention. This is how I determined the training of my tech company.
As for my daughter, I was very impacted by her feedback of how technology disconnects us from speaking to each other. This holiday season, one of her gifts will be the Family Edition of Trivial Pursuit. I am excited to share some quality time reconnecting, tech-free.
Happy, healthy holidays and New Year! May you too find time to disconnect from technology and reconnect with those who matter the most.
2017 Offer: Offer Expires, January 31, 2017. FREE Phone Skills Audit
Does your business need an “Image Strategy?” To get started, I am offering a FREE Phone Skills Audit of your organization. Call me today at 617-877-4680 to learn more!