Are You Communicating Well?

This past weekend, my daughter danced in her first ever dance recital. She was beautiful, and had a wonderful time prancing around the stage with all her friends in their butterfly wings.

Yet as a working parent, the experience was more stressful for me than it needed to be. And it was because of outdated communication used by the school. You see, I don’t normally drive my daughter to her dance class. My husband does that. And her dance school provides almost all communication through written messages stuck to a physical bulletin board in the dance school. So if you’re not there, forget to check the board, or miss the information for your class because of all the other stuff stuck to the board, you don’t have the information. I wound up sitting at the dress rehearsal for the recital watching my daughter with her hair done the wrong way, and the flower on the wrong side of her head, because I never got the message. Minor, it’s true. But I would have done it right had I known.

Fast forward to the day of the recital. I was asked where my daughter’s t-shirt was for the final number. I knew I had ordered it, but I hadn’t seen it. Apparently it was to be picked up by us, but again, I never got the message. This left me running around before the recital trying to find out where my daughter’s shirt was. Again, not a huge deal. But it was stress I didn’t need when I wanted to enjoy my daughter’s day.

And it really got me to thinking about how we sometimes rely on communication that’s comfortable for US, but doesn’t necessarily work for our target market. In the case of the dance school, even though my daughter had a great teacher, my final impression of the school is colored by the stress I experienced at the end of her dance experience. Had they kept in mind that their target market is not just the stay at home mom who sits and waits in the waiting room during dance class, this could have been avoided. It’s not hard to send a class email, or put important details on a web page. I’m not the only working parent in the school who experienced the lack of information. And since dance schools rely so heavily on word of mouth to get new students, they are shutting out a key demographic in this town of many parents who work.

Think about your key demographic for a moment. Do they prefer to email? Text? Talk on the phone? Or are you simply relying on the communication method most comfortable (or easiest) for you? Are your hostesses experiencing more stress than they need to because they have to work to get the information they need about the party they’ve planned with you? Can you make it easier for them?

The world is changing quickly, and communication looks different today. It’s hard, because different generations prefer to communicate in different ways, and we need to be competent in all of them. Neglecting this can shut you out from servicing an entire generation.

It’s likely my daughter will choose a different activity next year. She thinks Tae Kwon Do sounds fun. And I’m not sorry we’re not going back to dance. I don’t need to add stress to my life.

How many people are opting not to work with you because they can’t get the information they need easily?

Something to think about.

Your thoughts?

5 Responses to Are You Communicating Well?
  1. Anne
    July 10, 2011 | 4:24 pm

    Jen,
    I’ve been struggling with this issue even to fully get my business going.

    This is because I am an holistic bodyworker, movement therapist, and ergonomics assessor. I am making the foray into online business after many years of providing therapeutic services such as sports & clinical massage and exercise training for people with chronic pain/injuries.

    My market are those people who are beginning to get aches and pains, and entrepreneurs who likely spend a lot of time at the computer and can feel that by the end of the day. Many are are boomers, with little interest in getting their communications online or through mobile. With the others I am still trying to figure out how best to get their attention. I know they are out there!

    Thanks for asking.
    Anne
    Anne recently posted..Foot Posture – Walking or Running Barefoot

  2. Rae
    June 23, 2011 | 7:07 am

    I’m in direct sales. One big AHA! moment I had a few years ago was that many of my younger hosts don’t answer their phones. Some of them don’t respond to emails. If I was going to connect with them I needed to text or message them on Facebook. It took some restructuring of my hosting practices, but now I make sure that I ask. Once I know their preferred method of communication, that’s what I use. Yes, I still make calls. I still send emails. But, I know it’s not about me. It’s all about my hosts and customers.

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 23, 2011 | 9:21 am

      That is such an important point Rae. When I write new consultant training for direct selling companies, we always build in various ways to contact hostesses. Hostess coaching is changing, because it’s ALL about communication. Good for you for adapting to that already!

  3. Sarah Andrus
    June 21, 2011 | 12:07 pm

    I feel your pain, Jen! I’d be interested to know if there is also another communication block at work here. Like you, I worked full-time when my children were young. I travel quite a bit, so my husband was responsible for pick-up, drop-off, etc. He discovered something surprising and unexpected: As a “work-at home” dad, he was an anomaly. He didn’t go to the gym with the moms, for example, and he didn’t go out to coffee after drop-off. This meant he didn’t get any of the informal, yet important, information that teachers assumed was being shared with everyone. Another funny thing – I kept getting the teacher’s and parents’ calls about field trips, projects, and sick kids (well, that wasn’t so funny….), despite the fact we made it clear that my husband was to be the primary contact.

    This leads me to ask, who might you be leaving out of your business because you are making assumptions about them? Are you missing opportunities because of entrenched stereotypes or preconceived notions of “normal?”

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 21, 2011 | 12:22 pm

      Very, very good point Sarah! We’re certainly at a crossroads related to communication, as society is changing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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