Get the message across loud and clear

Clear communication is key in the business community, writes Manar Al Hinai.

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Before the holy month of Ramadan began this year, I asked my tailor to make a couple of dresses for me to wear for Iftar dinner parties. I dropped the fabric I had already chosen for the pieces and made a mental prediction of when they would be ready for me to wear. Then the night before Ramadan started, the tailor called to say my dresses were ready to be picked up.

But I was not prepared for what I was presented with. One dress was missing a zipper and another did not include many of the design features I’d had in mind. I was agitated and went to discuss the incident with the tailor before stopping myself. Was he to blame, I asked myself. No. It was entirely my fault.

Because the night I dropped the fabric at his shop, I did not express in any detail exactly how I wanted my dresses to look. While, yes, I had sketched out the initial design, I missed the other basic details because I assumed he would understand what I had in mind. I also assumed he would include a zipper. In my mind, he was a tailor and would automatically know what I needed for a dress. My rationale was “he makes them every day”.

In that moment I forgot something that everyone, especially business owners, should keep in mind – and that is to fully communicate what you want and not assume that the other party knows what you are talking about, no matter how experienced they are in their field.

When I first started my working life, I made similar mistakes all the time. I’d assume that suppliers and other colleagues knew and understood what I was talking about. While some came back with mistakes, others delivered something that was not asked for.

The first rule of thumb is to always put things into context. When you send an email submitting an order, include as much detail as possible: provide a brief background, time and date for delivery and any other detail that could prove helpful.

If you are communicating with suppliers over the phone, always follow up with an email highlighting what you discussed as they could miss out on one or two details. Again, make sure to highlight the deadline, quantity numbers and exactly how you would like the product/service to be delivered to you.

Similarly, when a client approaches you for a service, provide them with a document or a questionnaire to fill out that includes all the information you need to ensure your delivery is correct, complete and on time. Not only will that portray you as a professional entrepreneur, but it will also save you the time and effort of going back and forth to fix mistakes that could have been easily avoided.

When I book clients for my communications consultancy, I always ask them to fill out a brief providing as much detail about their desired service and requirements. This has helped me with efficiency and also helped the client understand their own needs.

One client told me that my questionnaire had actually helped her, shedding light on an aspect of her business she had not considered before and she was grateful for the process.

It’s also wise not to make the same mistake I did with my tailor, assuming that people understand what you are talking about. What may seem completely simple to you could sound like gibberish to others who do not have any background information.

Make sure that your form of communication is simple and clear. Avoid using jargon or complicated terms when issuing instructions, especially if the other party cannot speak your language as well as you do.

You could always incorporate helpful information through your website and social media channels. Provide an FAQs post or page on your website that answers any questions clients might have. Alternatively, provide that option via customer support service such as by phone or through social media channels; this helps clients who may be shy or forget to ask the questions they have in mind.

Similarly if you are selling a product, make sure that the instructions or manual is not only detailed but, more importantly, clear and simple. Take Ikea as an example. They have made their furniture so easy to assemble through the use of simple instructions and diagrams.

Communicating properly prevents confusion, and also saves on time and effort. Evaluate if your business is doing enough.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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