How to Create a Touch Strategy
Communication in any organization is its lifeblood. Managers must be able to disseminate information and those who receive it must also be able to provide feedback. To look at it another way, the exchange of information is a conversation among all who work with and within an organization. Like all discourse, however, there can be misunderstandings.
Such confusion can lead to employee turnover, disgruntled suppliers, and lost customers. The way to ensure that these things don’t happen is to build strong relationships.
Friends are more willing to forgive each other than acquaintances or strangers. That’s because they trust those who are close to them; and they know their weaknesses, as well as their strengths. Little things don’t bother them, and if something big happens, then because they’re willing to give their friends the benefit of the doubt.
When you’re dealing with a lot of employees, hundreds of customers, and dozens of suppliers, how can you maintain the relationship that binds you together?
In one form or another, it’s about staying in touch. And that’s what a touch strategy is.
Here are some key parts that go with staying in touch. They’re all important, so you must refrain from cherry-picking the ones you like. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
There’s a popular idea floating around that implies that as long as you let everyone have their say, then you’ve done your bit and you can do whatever you want afterwards.
Listening by definition means incorporating the feedback you get into the action you take. If nothing else, think of it as mitigating circumstances. Whatever people share with you should shape your action.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore that.
Listening also includes observation. Is it apparent that people understand what you meant? You’ll know this not only by watching what they do, but also by how they do it. Those who simply misunderstand will do it wrong. Those who intentionally do it incorrectly will also have an attitude. You’ll be able to discern the difference if you pay attention. You can’t assume, however, that you’ve communicated simply because you delivered the contents of a message.
Imagine, for example, that you have received a message written in Cherokee. Were the contents communicated to you? It doesn’t matter how simple the message was. If you didn’t understand the words, then no communication has took place.
2. Be authentic
You have to be yourself. You have to be the real deal. No faking.
We’ve heard a lot about fake news lately. People may be uninformed, but they’re not stupid. They may not even be as ignorant as you think.
Part of being authentic towards them is expecting them to be authentic with you. That means that there’s mutual respect.
You can’t expect to communicate with anyone if you’re unwilling to play it straight.
A relationship isn’t a game, so stop treating it as if it is.
And remember that people are watching your behaviour. Hypocrites are people who say one thing and then do another. You can hardly expect others to take you seriously if you eschew one behaviour in your speech, but actively pursue or approve of it in your actions.
You must have integrity.
You also have to be authentic with your surroundings. You can’t pretend that circumstances are different than they are, and then build your strategies around it. People will notice that you’re disconnected from reality. They’ll act slowly at first and, if you don’t get the message, they’ll stop altogether at some point depending on how much they’re willing to tolerate your nonsense.
And you must take responsibility, not only for the relationship, but for the messages that you communicate.
It sounds so noble to pass the responsibility for communicating a message onto someone else; but the bottom line is that, as Harry Truman put it, the buck stops with you. Blame starts and ends with you as the manager or the owner.
3. Value the relationship
This takes the idea of respecting others a step further. You can respect other people, but rarely communicate with them. There may be very good reasons for doing that, but if you want to have a relationship, then you have to value it. That doesn’t mean acting as if you do. Instead, it means actually doing it.
There’s a big difference.
Acting is failing to be authentic. It’s pretending to be something you’re not.
Mark Twain said that if you always tell the truth, then you never have to remember anything.
That should be a “duh” moment when you think about it.
If you value the relationship, then you won’t pretend to be someone else. People will see you for who you are.
Some will like you and others won’t. Welcome to life!
Some who don’t like you will still want to have a relationship with you. Cultivate it. Don’t fob them off. You have nothing to lose by being nice to them.
4. Remove obstacles
Miscommunication is the result of some obstacle.
It could be that people don’t know what you mean, or that they’re sure you can’t mean what you’re saying: not that you’re kidding, but that you’ve lost the thread somewhere. They may fail to act as swiftly as you would like, not because they are naturally resistant, but because they are awaiting clarification.
Rabbits don’t stare at your headlights because they want to be run over. They do so because they don’t know where to go. Your people can be the same way, They may stop what they’re doing in the middle of the process because they need a clearer idea of what you want them to do.
You can create unnecessary obstacles by acting as if people are resisting you. Make sure that you know what the real reasons are for their inactivity before you react. Count to ten or a hundred if that will help you. Remember that once you say something, it’s almost impossible to retract it.
5. Stay in touch
A “touch strategy” means what it says on the tin. You have to stay in touch.
Touching implies that the other person is only an arm’s length away. So, staying in touch must mean that there is closeness in the relationship.
Closeness also implies frequency. It’s not once in a blue moon. It’s not annually.
How often do you think you should be in touch to stay in touch?
It’s better if your touches are spontaneous; that is, that they aren’t contrived. For example, you may still receive a few Christmas cards every year. How many of them do you get from people that haven’t contacted you since last year?
You know why they were sent. How did they make you feel? Did they feel personal? Unlikely. That’s how each and every one of the messages you send feels to your recipients when people believe you’re doing it because you have some obligation to do so.
That said, when you’re trying to sustain a relationship with a lot of people, this may be difficult to do without some kind of plan.
And so, it could be that you will need to create a schedule so that you make some level of contact with all of your clients, suppliers, and employees more regularly. If that’s what it takes, then go for it. It’s better than having no communication whatsoever.
The schedule may include things like email messages, a phone call, or an on-site visit. The thing is that you want to “touch base” with them on a regular basis, but without making a nuisance of yourself and without becoming predictable.
Predictability makes all such communication seem contrived. It’s like seeing your therapist every other week. You might become friends, but that’s not why you meet.
Spontaneity can mean a quick thank you note sent through the post. Anything that’s novel draws more attention. A handwritten note these days carries more weight than an email. That’s because hardly anyone takes the time to do it.
On the other hand, it’s possible to overdo your attempts to stay in touch.
Constant communication can feel like, and be for that matter, a form of micromanagement, if it’s with an employee; or pestering, if it’s with a client. A supplier can feel like you’re taking advantage of the relationship if you’re always bugging them about this thing or that.
Strive for balance. Ask yourself how often you would contact a good friend or how often you would like a good friend to contact you.
The frequency will vary from person to person. It should. We’re all different. Employees, however, shouldn’t have to assume that no-news-is-good-news any more than suppliers should. We all need feedback even if it’s simply to tell us we’re on the right track.
A touch strategy is all about taking responsibility for sustaining the relationship by communicating on a regular basis in a meaningful and spontaneous way. It’s not about ticking a box in a checklist or gaming the system.
If you want to develop a Customer Touch Strategy to improve your Client Retention Rates, email me for an initial and FREE chat