"I wish some of my team members would think more before they speak." This was the comment made by a senior HR manager of a construction company where I was brought in to conduct training. She continued, "They inadvertently share more than our customers need to hear." In today's world of social media where people post their opinions and details of their lives for the entire world to scrutinize, we're finding oversharing is a growing problem. Not only does it jeopardize customer loyalty; it also limits career advancement. See if you or your team members ever commit any of these top six oversharing blunders.
1. Referring to other customers
Customers like to feel that they are your only customer, especially if they do a lot of business with you. That's why when you're busy working on projects or orders for other customers, it's important to keep that fact to yourself. Explain to the customer the steps you're taking to keep things on schedule for him or her. Don't mention other customers or projects that also require your attention.
2. Internal affairs
Over the course of working with a client on a project, there may be internal issues – staffing shortages, unanticipated obstacles, equipment failures – that arise that affect their project. In general the customer doesn't need nor want to hear about these problems unless they'll affect the overall outcome. Even then, more important than hearing about obstacles, what the client really wants to know is your plan to get the project back on track.
3. How the customer's needs compare to yours
When customers share details about themselves that you can relate to, there's a temptation to jump in and share your similar experiences. But that's not why the customer is there. It's fine to be able to connect at a personal level, but your personal experiences can come later. In the early stage of interviewing customers, it's more important to dig deeper to find out what's really behind their needs. It's okay for customers to like you as friend when you have lots in common. But it's more important for them to value you as their trusted advisor. Keep my little rhyme in mind: "Friends compare and overshare. Advisors ask and stay on task." It's a reminder to talk less and listen more.
At a hotel where I was hosting a conference, I phoned the main reception and asked to speak with the general manager. The front desk receptionist told me, "She's working out right now. Can you call back in an hour?" When I called back later the receptionist then explained, "She's taking a shower now." I'm not making this up! While that's an extreme example of oversharing personal information with a customer, more common examples are references to coworkers who are… at lunch, sick today, on a smoke break, on holidays, with another customer (see blunder #1), etc. Best to simply tell the customer that the person is unavailable or out of the office until a certain time or day, and offer to take a message. Speaking of too much personal info, when customers ask how we are, they don't want to hear lamentations about our physical or mental state or how anxious we are for our shift to be over. Buyers aren't there to hear whining. It instantly diminishes the customer experience. Just remain positive and focus on helping the customer.
5. Obvious product features
Customers have so much access to information that when it comes to larger buying decisions they've often done their homework before contacting you. Explaining features that customers already know and understand sounds condescending. That's why it's important to begin that part of the conversation by asking, "How familiar are you with…?" Then as you describe your offerings, focus less on features and more on benefits as they relate to that particular customer.
6. Technical jargon
In general, the higher-up the chain of command an internal or external customer is, the less interested they are in technical details. They are primarily interested in outcomes. So resist the urge to impress senior managers with how much of a technical expert you are. When an executive asks about the weather, they don't want to be told how to make a thermometer.
The training solution While discretion is said to be the better part of valour, I believe it's also the better part of value – the value that customers and employers place on your service. The sad reality is that many employees aren't even aware they are committing these blunders. Fortunately, all it takes is a single seminar to sidestep these oversharing errors and enhance customer experience. One thing is certain, unless employees are made aware of how their words can damage goodwill and hurt their own careers, they'll continue to overshare.