Nonverbal Customer Communication Strategies

Nonverbal Customer Communication Strategies

As a customer service professional, it is impossible for you to “not” send nonverbal messages to your customers. They are evaluating you based on your posture, facial expressions, height, body type and condition, skin color, complexion, clothing, jewelry, and many other nonverbal cues. Your goal should be to eliminate communication barriers and to pay attention to all these factors. You should also strive to communicate a message of professionalism and that you are alert, happy, capable and ready to serve your customer.

Nonverbal Customer Communication Strategies

On the telephone, your tone and attitude should project a positive, upbeat and professional presence that helps encourage people to continue to do business with you and your organization.

When speaking with a customer face-to-face, you should avoid negative body cues and facial gestures like frowning, crossing arms across the chest, using eye contact inappropriately as your customer speaks, pointing fingers at someone, rubbing the back of your neck or the bridge of your nose, or any other movement that might indicate boredom, stress, frustration or displeasure since some cultures view these things negatively.  Also, you should be conscious of nervous habits that you might have which could say to the customer that you are impatient, uncertain, or otherwise not confident about a given situation (e.g. a sale). For example, fidgeting, jingling change or playing with items in your pocket, twirling the ends of your hair, clicking a ballpoint pen, biting nails, looking at your watch, or rubbing your hands together.

When interacting with your customers, it is important that you monitor your own nonverbal cues and those that they use. In doing so, remember that just because someone from a culture uses a nonverbal cue similar to one that your culture uses does not mean that it has the same meaning with which you are familiar. Learning to appropriately interpret and appreciate different nonverbal cues used by customers from around the world will give you a big advantage over your competition when dealing with people from various cultural and diverse backgrounds.

An important thing to remember is that you should not assign meaning to a nonverbal cue that you see a customer use out of context (e.g. their verbal and nonverbal messages do not seem to match). This is because the same gesture (e.g. a smile) might have different meanings when used by someone based on the situation, their level of emotion, the environment, a person that they are with, time, the customer’s cultural background and your personal frame of reference related to the signal.

To better discover ways to communicate positively in a global business environment, get a copy of Please Every Customer: Delivering stellar customer service across cultures.

About Robert C. Lucas

Bob Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.

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Impact of the Eyes in Customer Service

Impact of the Eyes in Customer Service

It has been said that the eyes are “the windows to the soul.” That is why some people and Westernized cultures place so much interest in making eye contact with others. This gives people a chance to potentially gauge meaning nonverbally from another person.

Impact of the Eyes in Customer Service

Consider the following related to eye contact with your customers and communicating nonverbally across cultures:

  • In most Western cultures, the typical period of time that is comfortable for holding eye contact is 5 to 10 seconds for many people; then an occasional glance away is normal and expected.
  • Looking away in some cultures can often send a message of disinterest, or dishonesty, or lack of confidence (e.g. the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
  • If either the length or the frequency of eye contact differs from the “norm,” many people might think that you are being rude or offensive. They might also interpret your behavior as an attempt to exert power or as flirting.
  • Looking down before answering questions, glancing away continually as your customer talks, blinking excessively and other furtive eye movements can potentially create a negative impression. In any case, your customer might become uncomfortable and may react in an undesirable manner. For example, they might become upset or end the conversation if you use eye contact in what they perceive as an inappropriate manner.

As with all other aspects of workplace interaction in a multicultural environment, do not forget that cultural values and practices often influence the way in which people communicate and interpret message signals.

For more information about how to effectively interact with and deliver service across cultures, and to people who are not like you, get a copy of Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

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