Communication is a magnificent thing, and we as humans crave regular interaction. However, this can be complicated, especially with the new technology and platforms available to us. As a society, we communicate through various channels, from texting friends to emailing work colleagues and contacting companies through live chat.
Miscommunication is simply a breakdown in the communication process. It’s a failure to make your thoughts, feelings, and/or ideas known to others clearly and concisely. It’s not just the messenger who can be at fault; miscommunication can also occur if someone doesn’t fully listen to what’s being communicated to them.
One of the most important things to remember about communication is that it’s a two-way street. Although it can be frustrating to experience a breakdown in communication in everyday life, the consequences aren’t usually catastrophic. In the workplace, though, they can be severe. So, how do you avoid miscommunication in the workplace?
What are the causes of miscommunication?
Miscommunication in the workplace can lead to uncomfortable situations and is a common cause of high turnover rates. It’s important to tackle it as soon as the issue arises. To do this, you need to understand why it happens.
Here are some of the main causes of miscommunication.
Setting unrealistic targets and unbearable workloads can create a chaotic work environment - one where healthy communication can’t thrive. If your staff feel pressured in their job, they may start cutting corners and skipping over important details.
For example, if a Sales leader sets an impractical target for the number of outbound calls a BDR need to make, this could result in them rushing through their calls and not paying attention to the prospect's needs. The number of calls then begins to take precedence over call quality.
Remember, each customer is different, so your staff may need to spend more time with certain individuals than others.
This same root cause can cause issues with internal communication too, with rushed staff leaving out important details that lead to crossed wires and a loss of productivity.
It’s easy to lay all the blame on your employees and only work to improve their communication skills. However, more often than not, the root of miscommunication issues can be traced back to the management team (or lack thereof).
To provide a high-quality and consistent service, your employees need to work as a unit. Each team member needs to have the same understanding of the processes in place, and any changes must be communicated down the chain of command.
A lack of internal leadership and/or understanding on how to lead a successful remote team can negatively impact this and create confusion among staff members. This lack of guidance can cause workers to give customers conflicting information. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to a lack of trust between your company and its audience.
Not actively listening
There’s a big difference between hearing someone speak and actively listening to and comprehending their words and the meaning behind them.
An active listener will completely engage with their conversational companion and pay attention to their tone. They’ll also demonstrate non-verbal cues to reassure the other person that what they’re saying is being understood.
Without the appropriate training, it can be easy to switch off during a conversation and drown out the all-important voice of the customer. This can, without a doubt, negatively affect communication with both customers and fellow members of staff.
The consequences of miscommunication
Strong communication is crucial to running a business, so it will come as no surprise to hear that communication blunders can have a damaging impact on the well-being of your organization.
Some of the most significant repercussions regarding miscommunication are:
Poor customer service
Poor communication can lead to customers receiving incorrect and conflicting information. It can also increase employee unproductivity, which can indirectly affect sales figures.
If your clientele can’t trust your company to keep them updated on important changes and supply them with correct information, it’s unlikely they’ll trust you to provide a reliable service.
Customer satisfaction should be one of your main priorities as a business, and keeping them fully informed, whether through speedy customer support or a simple email marketing campaign, is one of the best ways to keep consumers content.
Damage to your company's reputation
It can be frustrating to deal with a company that lacks the communication abilities to resolve issues quickly and efficiently. While your intentions may be good, miscommunication can change your customers’ opinions about you, which could result in reduced web traffic and a lower conversion rates.
Many people share their experience with a company with friends or family. So, if you struggle to effectively communicate with customers, they could soon spread the word that you’re not to be trusted.
A toxic work environment
Without clear guidance and instruction, staff may feel lost in their role and doubt whether they’re following the correct procedures. If this problem isn’t addressed and resolved quickly, it could lead to stress and frustration. This will inevitably result in a toxic atmosphere in which nobody feels comfortable.
It’s important to nip this in the bud and implement strong communication processes across all departments, so be sure that messages stay consistent amongst all your employees, whether they are in the office or working at a fulfillment center.
How to avoid miscommunication in the workplace
Dwelling on issues rarely does any good. It’s important to find solutions to workplace problems as quickly as possible to allow your team to focus on providing a top-class service.
Here are four top tips to help you avoid miscommunication in the workplace.
1. Encourage feedback
It’s not possible to create solutions to problems you don’t know exist, so develop an open dialogue with employees and make them feel comfortable sharing their opinions and concerns with you. Introduce suggestion boxes to allow them to make recommendations anonymously or set up one-to-one sessions.
Engaging your staff and making them feel confident sharing their thoughts at work can drastically improve communication throughout the workplace. This is especially important with remote working on the rise.
With many people now working alone at home, it can be difficult to stay up to date with everything and feel like you’re still part of a team. Make your employees feel heard and try build inclusivity into remote meetings. This will create a happier and more open work environment.
2. Revamp your meeting structure
Try not to act too surprised when we tell you that some employees may not pay attention during team meetings. It’s easy to tune out when faced with the same mundane setting and repetitive discussions each day.
To tackle this, try reinventing your meetings to make them more effective. Start off with some icebreakers, introduce regular refresher breaks for long conferences or change up the setting of your weekly team catch-ups. You could add visual aids such as PowerPoint presentations or handouts to help employees better understand what’s being discussed.
3. Provide communication training sessions
It would be unfair to simply tell your team to improve their communication and leave them to it. While everyone must do their part to eliminate miscommunication, this needs to start somewhere.
Offering communication training sessions will equip your team with the tools needed to converse with colleagues and customers clearly and effectively. This will be particularly helpful for remote workers as they won’t have the direct support of colleagues while at home.
Learning to optimize communications within remote teams will also be crucial to keeping your productivity up.
You could go one step further and provide training sessions on other elements of your business too. Ensuring workers are completely clued up on all aspects of the company will eradicate any grey areas and guarantee that everyone is on the same page.
4. Improve your leadership skills
It’s all well and good investing in training for your colleagues, but it’s also important to help the management team improve their skills. Improving the leadership of your business allows everything else to fall into place.
Look into leadership training courses to keep managers at the top of their game. Ask all members of staff for feedback on how effective they think management is throughout the company and encourage suggestions to improve.
It’s important to note that everyone learns and responds to direction in different ways, so the issue may not necessarily be that the management team isn't good. It may just be that they’re managing their staff in a way that doesn’t translate well to them. Find out how your employees like to be managed and make appropriate (realistic) changes.
Now you have the necessary information, it’s time to put it into practice. Start with some digging into your organization and find out where you might be going wrong on the communication front. Or try sending a survey to crowd source ideas from your team on how to improve team collaboration.
Observe employee interactions yourself and determine whether these meet the standards you want your team to be known for. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes. If something doesn’t work out, find out why and make changes where you can.
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Written by Jenna Bunnell
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted UCaaS provider with valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways.