How Important Are Your Communication Skills?
Whatever industry you are in, your communications skills have a key role in your business success. From initial marketing messages, to customer relations and beyond, we all strive to communicate as effectively as possible.
Wednesday 2 April is National Autism Awareness Day and as somebody who has a nephew with Asperger Syndrome, this is something which is close to mine and Steve’s heart. As such, it seems like the perfect opportunity to explore a bit about how effective communications work.
When, we as businesses talk about effective communications, we usually mean how we deliver our message about our products and services, how we as a business engage with prospects and customers. We all know that listening to our customer requirements is rule one of building our business success, but what if that customer receives or gives information in a way we are unfamiliar with or causes us confusion?
My colleague, Jo Fox is Autism Consultant at The Autism Expert, an organisation that works with schools, businesses and authorities throughout the UK. The Autism Expert offers training and advice on how to be autism aware and also to help and support those on the autistic spectrum. An authority in her field, she is knowledgeable about the benefits to businesses of being autism aware, and it is compelling stuff.
Why should I, as a Business, be Autism Aware?
It’s about effective communication. Put simply, a person with an autistic spectrum condition (ASC) will have an impairment with communication, interaction with others and difficulties with imagination. In addition to this, over 90% have sensory issues. Being aware of the issues surrounding autism and having a grasp of how to interact with people with an autistic spectrum condition, can boost your business in several ways:
· Improved customer service – that offers customers reassurance and confidence.
· Loyalty – People trust businesses where they are treated with understanding of their needs. It builds an incredibly loyal return client base. Jo tells us that people will travel a long way to deal with an establishment in which they are confident they are understood.
· Not to put too fine a point on it – increased sales.
· Autism aware businesses are more likely to win public sector contracts, as local authorities now have to comply with the Autism Act (2009), some L.A’s are offloading this responsibility onto private businesses.
What is Autism exactly?
Autism (and Asperger syndrome, a milder form of autism) is a spectrum condition, which means it affects people in different ways and to a lesser or greater extent. It affects the way a person communicates and relates to others, and also how they see the world around them.
People with and an autistic spectrum condition may have difficulty in three main areas:
· Social communication – both verbal and non-verbal (body language)
· Social interaction – difficulty in relating to others’ feelings or emotions
· Social imagination – difficulty in interpreting other people’s feelings or actions. Find it hard to cope in new or unfamiliar situations.
Officially, 1 in 100 people are diagnosed with autism, but some reports indicate the real incidence is nearer to 1 in 68, although the actual figure is likely to be much higher than this. Businesses that become autism aware do so without impacting on their existing business practices and find that the majority of their customers prefer the changes that have been made. A lot of what is required to gain autism friendly status is in line with standard good practice.
This has hardly scratched the surface and more information about Autism and Asperger syndrome can be found at The National Autistic Society
A helping hand . . . .
Speaking broadly about this vast subject, people with an autistic spectrum condition tend not to find eye contact easily, so do not assume the person is being rude, they simply might find eye contact uncomfortable. It could be that they do not like being touched, so avoid unexpected touch as this can be physically painful to someone with autism.
Being clear with the information you give, allowing them time to process that information and being patient with the many questions they ask for clarification will undoubtedly help. Use unambiguous, simple and clear language, as language can often be mis-interpreted by someone on the autistic spectrum. Always explain what you are doing, what is happening and give simple one step instructions.
Click the link for more information on making your business autism ready http://www.autismready.co.uk/
A final thought on communications . . . .
As I said, rule number one is to listen to your customers’ needs. It is interesting to consider that this applies not only to our products and services but the customers themselves. Let the person with autism define what communication is and how it should be carried out, rather than conforming to our preconceived ideas.
Data Bubble, as an organisation, is autism aware and our website has been autism accredited. If you would like more information on how your company can gain accreditation, feel free to contact us or speak to Jo Fox directly on 07855 386168.