How CX managers can become better communicators
What does it mean for a CX manager to be a good communicator - and how can they improve their communication skills?
CX solution provider MetricsXM recently conducted an interesting analysis of job listings, looking at ads for customer experience managers to identify the skills that recruiters view as most valuable to the role.
The requirement that commonly appeared in the many listings that were examined was that the candidate possess good communication skills.
So what does it mean for a CX leader to be a good communicator - and how can they improve their communication skills?
Why is good communication so important to CX leadership?
One of the fundamental goals of the customer experience leader is to unite the organisation behind a common set of principles, embedding a customer-centric culture from the boardroom down to those on the frontline.
It’s vital that you are able to share the values and objectives of the business with employees in a meaningful way that brings them to life. But you also need to clarify how each worker fits into this picture and why their contribution is both valued and valuable. Otherwise people can end up just feeling like a cog in a wheel.
At the same time, CX leaders may also need to win over sceptical minds in the c-suite, to secure their buy-in to the customer experience programme, as well as build bridges between siloed parts of the business that will need to work in unison if the organisation is to deliver seamless service. Ultimately, to galvanise all these employees, the CX leader must possess excellent communication skills.
However, good communication doesn’t always come naturally to everybody - and even those that do have more natural gifts would be wise to hone their skills.
“Whilst we might know exactly what we mean when trying to convey a message to others, there are many times when the true meaning simply gets lost in translation,” communications trainer Simon De Cintra notes.
“It can be easy to assume that some people are just blessed with having “the gift of the gab” and that those who don’t have this natural confidence in talking to others will have to work a lot harder in order to be noticed.”
But there are some best practices that professionals can follow to improve their communication skills. Here are some useful tips.
Improve your listening
“It is clear from the number of miscommunications, misunderstandings and misinterpretations that occur in our relationships, that our listening skills are poor,” explains Dr Alan Watkins, CEO of Complete Coherence. “The most valuable part of communication is actually the meaning behind what that person is saying, how they are acting, and how they are feeling. If you develop the ability to detect this meaning then it will vigorously enhance your relationships, and your career.”
But how do you do it?
Watkins recommends a three-step process he calls MAP.
Stop listening to your own internal noise and tune in to the person speaking. Rather than chasing your own thoughts, the instant the other person starts talking move your attention away from the noise in your head and focus on your breathing. This is important because as you focus on your breathing, you are changing your physiology. Your biology shifts from a state of chaos, with an erratically fluctuating heart rate, to a more coherent state with a dynamically stable heart rate. This reduces the internal noise in your system so the incoming signal (the speaker’s message) to your noise (your own biology) ratio changes.
Activate a state of appreciation for the speaker. If you generate a warm feeling of appreciation in your body and radiate it out towards the speaker they should be able to detect it. This non-judgemental positive regard will often settle the speaker, making them feel more comfortable and two very interesting things will often occur. The speaker will open up and reveal more information and, because they don’t feel threatened, they will often deliver their message better.
Once the speaker has stopped talking, you should play back what you think the speaker may have meant, to check that you have completely understood what they were saying. This playback should focus on what you sensed at the deeper level and not as a statement, assertion of fact, or judgement.
Develop your self-confidence and self-belief
Simon De Cintra suggests that self-belief is crucial - if you don’t have confidence in yourself, then why should anyone else?
Simon has devised the ‘voice’ methodology to help rouse your self-confidence and be a more engaging communicator. This is how he explains it:
Vocation. Start by acknowledging the importance of being understood by the people listening to you, as a priority over feeling like an expert in your own mind. By putting the focus on them rather than yourself, you open yourself up to their experience as your listener, and how best to adapt your approach to communicate with them in the most efficient and successful way possible.
Observe. Throughout life, almost everything we learn is acquired by observing our surroundings and context, and communicating effectively is exactly the same. Taking the opportunity to pay attention to the interactions of others, and what works to communicate effectively and what doesn’t, can really pay off when trying to improve presentation skills.
Intention. You cannot rely on words to carry your message all by themselves. For the best chances of convincing people and your words having the desired effect on them, you have to make some careful considerations about the way you come across when you speak. Could a particular tone of voice, or emphasis on certain words, transform the meaning of your message and communicate it in a more accurate way? Could your body language and stance be countering the message your words are giving? Give some thought to the compatibility of your message and the way you come across.
Casting. We communicate at our very best when we retain our personal authenticity, and put it to good use. So rather than have a business hat and a social hat, consider what skills or tendencies your authentic self could adopt in the work environment to make the best version of yourself. It’s the same as dressing up smart for a black tie do: you don’t look like you did when you rolled out of bed that morning, but you have made the most of your best qualities and added a few embellishments to round the whole look off.
Experiment. Finding an effective communication style is trial and error. Have the courage to get things wrong, reflect, improve and move on.
Empathy is a crucial component of good communication. It’s not unusual to have different opinions and points of view to those we are communicating with, and while we want them to consider our arguments, we should also do the same of theirs.
It’s important to understand where their thoughts, emotions and opinions come from.
Emma Sue Prince, director of Unimenta, says: “Empathy is the ability to understand, be aware of and co-experience the feelings and thoughts of other people. It can be very challenging in practice because you have to step out of your own little bubble to use it as a skill. This requires putting your own ‘stuff’ aside and choosing to see the situation through the other person’s eyes.
Prince defines the core components of empathy as:
- Being non-judgmental – Judgement of another person's situation discounts their experience.
- Understanding another person’s feelings – You have to be in touch with your own feelings in order to understand someone else's.
- Communicating your understanding of that person’s feelings – Rather than saying, "At least you..." or "It could be worse..." try, "I've been there, and that really hurts," or "It sounds like you are in a hard place now. Tell me more about it” or simply “I don't know what to say, but I am really glad you told me."
Chris Richardson recommends: “Stay in tune with your own emotions, so you’ll understand where they are coming from. Are you judging someone unfairly just because you had an argument yesterday? Are they treating you unfairly because you didn’t do them a favor when they asked for it? Are they nervous because they are going through serious personal problems?
“People are never perfect. They are just people. When you understand them at their best and worst, you’ll take the communication to a whole new level of effectiveness.”
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Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.