Three Things Your Client-Facing Team Should Never Say
As you establish your conversion team, you will find a range of communication skills. Some team members will be focused on internal tasks, and others must be client-facing. Team members with strong client skills are tremendously valuable, but they are also tremendously rare. Your typical team member may have experience working with internal customers but not external customers. Conversations that are acceptable within your organization are not acceptable with your external customers, who are forming opinions about the professionalism and capabilities of your firm. You need to coach your team about how to communicate with the customer. As a starting point here are three things your team should not say in the presence of a customer.
1. "I don't have any requirements." This is not only whiny, but it also gives the impression that the team member does not understand his function. The external customer has no idea what the team member needs or how to describe it. The function of a conversion team member is to elicit the requirements from the customer.
2. "We can't do that." This could be a true statement, but it ignores the possibility of making modifications or implementing workarounds to satisfy the requirement. An individual team member is likely not aware of the all the options that could be employed to satisfy a requirement, and these conversations need to occur during internal team meetings.
3. "(Enter name of other team here) is always (enter the negative character trait)." Even when said as a joke, impugning a team member's competence or integrity in front of a client damages the team member's reputation, diminishes the client's opinion of your firm, and labels the person making the statement as unprofessional. That's a very high price to pay for a chuckle.
Early in my career, I worked for a U.K. based consulting firm, and the managing partner had a brilliant expression. He said that, as outsiders, we are always in the "shop window" for everyone to see, and we need to act accordingly. Your client-facing team would do well to heed that advice.