When we begin our communications with clear, positive language, we set the tone for the entire conversation by making the other person more receptive, able to listen and open to solutions. Understanding the significance of starting all communications with positive language is critical to providing excellent customer service because it enables us to build rapport and demonstrate empathy while forming stronger relationships with others.
MGI’s communication skills training is underpinned by our Mindset, Language & Actions Toolkit and clearly demonstrates that customer service-givers who are equipped to use positive, helpful or empathetic language are much more likely to elicit the best response from the other person. The fundamental reason for this is based on proven psychology and an understanding of how the brain works. In essence, when the brain is in a positive state, it produces more of certain chemicals that promote listening, learning, teamwork and cooperation than when it is in a negative state, when the opposite is true.
This means that the first thing we say to a customer or colleague can influence the outcome of the conversation, whether it’s positive, neutral, or negative. When we start our communication with something positive and solution-focused, we engage people, reassure them and encourage them to listen, work, and collaborate with us. Customer service representatives should ensure that they begin with a benefit or something constructive, that they clearly state what is possible first before giving any disappointing news, and that they focus first and foremost on solutions, options, a way forward, and the actions required to achieve this.
Watch out for language ‘traps’
In order to understand the incredible power of positive communication, it’s important to take a moment to think about some of the things to watch out for in our communication with others. Here at MGI we refer to certain negative words as ‘roadblocking’ language which should be avoided because it blocks the flow of communication. A key example is the use of the word ‘unfortunately’, for the simple reason that the only thing that follows ‘unfortunately’ is bad news!
Inevitably, on hearing this word, the other person will be triggered into a negative state of concern, irritation, uncertainty or doubt. Then, usually, a much more positive “… although we can do this” follows the negative “Unfortunately I can’t …”. Simply changing the order of your language so that you always begin with the positive will make a significant difference to the entire conversation from the start. You may be surprised that many times when you have focused on the solution you don’t even need to give the disappointing news or anything negative. We urge you to give it a try – both at work and at home – you’ll be amazed what happens!
Positives that are negatively framed
Being aware of the power of the positive word should be at the forefront of our thinking as much as possible, and it can quickly become a very useful habit. Another common stumbling block in our use of language is positives that are negatively framed, such as everyday phrases like “No problem” and “No worries” which can be confusing and should be avoided. Far from being clear and reassuring, both expressions can elicit a negative reaction from the other person, who may be triggered into focusing on the negative and thinking or saying “Well, it’s a problem for me” or “It’s certainly something that worries me!”.
It’s important to be clear and to make the most of the positive elements of our communication and to remember the incredible power of being able to say a clear ‘yes’ whenever we possibly can.
Having the right language at your fingertips
Here at MGI, we also emphasise the importance of recognising collusive language that can lead to misplaced empathy or camaraderie. When things get tough at work and the pressure is on, teams that lack the necessary skills and resources may be tempted to express themselves in ways that are open to misinterpretation. For example, “Yes, I know how bad it is – it’s terrible right now, isn’t it?” Usually, some kind of solution will follow such as “And what we are able to do to help you with this is…”. However, the damage has in fact already been done by the initial negativity.
Alternatively, teams that are equipped and prepared to respond positively to more challenging and complex situations have some appropriately empathetic and solution-focused responses ready, such as: “It’s great you’re sharing how you’re feeling about this. I’m glad you told me how things are going for you right now. Let’s see what we can do together to improve the situation as soon as possible.”
Having a true awareness and understanding of the potential of language and the powerful, positive impact it can have on our everyday interactions with customers, colleagues and suppliers is an extremely valuable skillset that will lead to greater satisfaction, capability and confidence, increased productivity and outstanding outcomes.
How can we help?
MGI’s inspiring and engaging Mindset, Language & Actions Toolkit can transform your customer service team’s communication skills for all round service excellence. Learn more about our Customer Service Excellence programme here.