Chapter 3: Communication Skills
Effective communication embodies the ability to receive and convey information, ideas and messages in ways that are effective and appropriate to the situation.
Introduction (Why is it important?):
Trying to teach communication is often difficult and trying for supervisors. As supervisors, we hope they have the basic professional skill set for the workplace. Yet, often times, for our student employees, this is their first exposure to a professional workplace. It is imperative to help facilitate the growth and development of this skill set with your student employees. The following information will help focus your attention on what to address with your student employees around communication. The ability of students to express and interpret information and use information resources and technology is key in our information driven world.
Students will learn the basic types of listening and response styles, as well as proper communication techniques for interacting with customers through phone, e-mail or in person:
- Written: Conveying ideas and information through the use of written language.
- Oral: Conveying ideas and information through the use of spoken language.
- Non-Verbal and Visual: Conveying ideas and information through the use of imagery or wordless cues.
- Active Listening: An interaction between speaker(s) and listener/recipient that requires the listener/recipient to restate what they heard in their own words in order to confirm the understanding of all parties. Active listening results in getting people to open up, avoid misunderstandings, resolve conflicts and build trust. It is important to note that the listener is not necessarily agreeing with the speaker(s), but is simply stating what was said.
- Contextual: Communication that pertains to relevant populations, persons, situations, environments or sets of behaviors. This includes such contexts as professional, cross-cultural, online, and academic and crisis communication.
- Greet Everyone! This may seem silly to have to say – but you want to make sure every customer feels valued and appreciated by acknowledging them as soon as possible. Be available to help them. Be friendly – make eye contact and smile. Say “Good morning/afternoon/evening” and then ask “how can I help you?” This makes the customer feel welcome in your office.
- Be courteous and respectful at all times with the customer. We don’t always get the “happy go-lucky” customers in our office. Sometimes we interact with dissatisfied or upset customers – and this can be challenging. Actively listen to the customer by making eye contact, nodding and trying to really understand their needs. You may even take notes to make sure you are getting it correct. Ask clarifying questions to seek to understand. Do not interrupt the customer – and don’t raise your voice. Keeping your voice even and often times soft will help keep the tone down. You always want to be respectful. Don’t add fuel to the fire – but remain level-headed and polite. If you don’t feel you can do this – seek assistance with a co-worker or supervisor for guidance in handling this situation.
- Follow-up! Always try and end a conversation with a customer, in-person or on the phone, with “is there anything else I can assist you with today?” or “Let us know if I can assist you with anything else?” You want the customer to know you are there to help them in anyway – even if it is directing them to another office – make sure they know where and how to get there.
- Be eager to learn and help! Show interest in your job. Clean your area and office around you. Be proud of your work environment. If you work at a front desk area – keep it nice and professional looking at all times. Check with your supervisor on how to open and close your areas – including cleaning. Ask for responsibilities. You want to show that you are there to work and learn your job.
- Have fun! Lastly, the job is what you make it! Do your job – have fun. Be pleasant, interact with customers, staff, faculty and anyone in your work environment in a positive and fun way. You will enjoy your job more – and the people around you will enjoy you more! It’s win-win!
- Always be courteous and professional with your tone on the phone.
- Identify yourself, your organization/department, and ask how can I assist/help you?
- Always return calls!
- Ask if the caller would mind being placed on hold – before putting them on hold! And, don’t leave them on hold for more than a minute…if you need more time to look up information, etc. then ask if you can call them back! Then, call them back!
- Don’t interrupt a person while she or he is speaking to you.
- Do not argue with a caller.
- Do not engage in personal calls while working.
- Do not eat or chew gum while answering phones at work.
- Multi-tasking is a talent…learn to handle multiple calls and prioritize the calls.
- When taking messages, make sure to get as much information as possible as well as the best number and best time to return the call – especially if another co-worker needs to return the call.
- Always re-read your emails! Check for errors, missing words, content and tone. You want to make sure you are professional in any email correspondence.
- When replying, be careful of hitting “Reply All” – take a minute to decide if all need a response!
- Keep Email concise and to the point!
- Do not use slang or text talk in emails – always use appropriate grammar and professional language.
- Don’t forward “spam” or anything that is not work related during work. These can be hoaxes and cause others to be annoyed, irritated or angry.
- If you need to respond and are upset or angry with something in the email – wait a day or a few hours to respond. Often times you will have a clearer view of the situation as well as sometimes “reading” into the tone of an email is difficult and individually perceptive. Step back for some time before responding and hitting send. Think it through. Seek assistance for help, if needed.
Here are some common tasks involved through student employment offices that involve customer service in relation to communication:
|Answering the phone||Understanding the proper and expected telephone etiquette||“Good morning. Johnson Center. This is Jose, how can I help you?”|
|Greeting visitors||Addressing every visitor in an inviting manner is proper communication for a business.||“Good morning. How can I help you?”|
|Directing and responding to questions||Listening skills||“So, I understand you are looking for Popejoy. Let me show you how to get there from here.”|
|Email etiquette||Technology: Understanding the role of email/electronic communication within a business. Being able to remain professional at all times.|
Good morning. Here is the answer to your question: ……
Sincerely, Rob Thomas Student Intern
|Social Media||Social media plays an important role in today’s world of communication.||Use social media only in the context of your job while on the job. Don’t Facebook or Instagram (or SnapChat) during work hours, unless it is work related. Be professional at all times.|
|Tools of the office||Technology: Understanding what tools you use will be important in developing professional communication skills.||Multi-line phone can be complicated – but understanding how to transfer calls and be polite to the callers is important.|
|Conflict resolution||Good listening and response skills are imperative to handling any type of misunderstandings or conflict within a professional office setting.||“Sarah, Can I talk to you about something….” (being direct and honest often is the best policy) – But the rule of thumb is to try and listen 2x more than you speak!|
So, how does this relate to your student employment job?
Here are a few examples from student employee jobs here on campus:
|Student Job on Campus||Collaboration Method|
|Career Services Front Desk Reception||Answering the phone and being able to address and direct appropriately. Being able to answer questions about the services for this department.|
|Recreational Services - Gym Attendant||Greeting visitors as they come to use the gym. Learning the “repeat”/daily students/guests coming in the front doors to the gym and remembering his/her name.|
|Accessibility Resource Center (ARC)||Directing and responding to questions in various methods: utilizing hearing impaired phones, Texting, Instant Messaging, computer generated systems to assist students/guests.|
|Women’s Resource Center (WRC)||Email etiquette: Being able to professionally and courteously answer all email inquiries and represent the WRC.|
|Student Activities Center||Social Media – being able to update and use the various social networking and marketing sites in a professional way to reach students, staff and faculty on events sponsored by Student Activities Center.|
|Dean of Students Office||Conflict resolution: Being able to handle situations that may be stressful or crisis oriented in a professional and sensitive way. May include understanding FERPA laws, sensitivity and confidentiality policies as well as being able to direct students in appropriate ways.|
Here are how your academic classes can also help you learn effective critical thinking skills:
Your classes will add to your skill set – and help you be more effective while working in your student employment position.
|Classes||Professionalism Skills Developed|
|English 110, 112, 113 and 120||Learn how to interview, write reports/papers and give oral presentations.|
|CJ 130 (Public Speaking)||Learning the professional way to present information to groups through speech.|
|Phil 156 (Reasoning and Critical Thinking)||Ability to see both sides and understand how to critically think while presenting your ideas to individuals and groups.|