So, in all of our dealings with customers, our active communication should fall into three camps:

1) Relationship-building

2) Strategic thinking

3) Exceptions & Problems

There’s another kind of communication that happens all the time, that we want to avoid:

4) Information transfer


Let’s think about these in detail:

1) Relationship-building: This ranges from the “how’s-it-going-nice-day-isn’t-it-yes-I’m-fine-too” stuff to the hugs and shared tears when a grandma dies. This, done right, makes everything easier. Spend time here, make it genuine, and if you can’t be genuine, pretend until after lunch.

2) Strategic thinking: This is all sorts of conversations, and it’s the kind that corporate boards and project managers and foreman chewing their lunch have all the time. It is the brainstorming, the improving, the criticizing, the making-things-better, the this-is-where-we-should-be-going conversations. This can’t be automated, and we need to take specific times to do this. This includes persuasion and sales when done correctly.

3) Exceptions & Problems: This will likely take up the bulk of our time communicating, and I believe that’s appropriate. As things come up that we’ve never dealt with before, we need to deal with them. We need to think about them, identify the real issue, and solve it as best as we can. If we have problems come up over and over and over again, it’s likely that we’re not solving the issue, but merely communicating information about the issue.

4) Information transfer: Wake up and smell the Starbucks app! It’s 2015–there’s no reason to verbally express information when it could be at your fingertips with a little organization and dedication. We have tools, freely available, that could make all the information that you generate and consume available right now. If you’re spending time talking to people to transfer information, you’re doing it wrong.

So, like most things, it’s simple–create systems to automate information transfer, and communicate about the rest!