Communication Skills: Putting Ourselves in Clients’ Shoes

Miscommunication between developing teams and clients is real. So real that there are dozens of blog posts dedicated to improving communication skills. On the other hand, discussing this issue on Quora just doesn’t make any sense. You’ll probably bump into the famous ‘you’ll just have to accept that you are going to go back and forth with the client’. And, you know what they say — happy wife, happy life. In this case: happy clients, we are all smiles.

Recently, we noticed that our development teams have had some difficulties in communication with clients, so we found a way to effectively improve their communication skills and relationships.

What was our goal?

At the very beginning, we set a goal — to improve communication with clients. However, we had no idea how serious the issue was. So, the first step was to find out what were the challenges our teams have been facing. We chose to create a little workshop. As it turned out, this form of communication skills training was a brilliant idea.

Somewhere in the middle of the workshop, we found a way to achieve the goal — to encourage assertive behavior and develop empathy towards clients. You can’t understand someone if you don’t put yourself in their shoes.

Who participated in the workshop?

Our development teams and HR, with the help of Vivify Ideas owners. This is no surprise since no one can define organizational culture, acceptable organizational behavior, and values as good as the ones who created the company.

5 phases of improving communication skills

Knowing that there is no need for complicated workshops that last for hours, we formed a 5 phase workshop on how to improve communication skills. Here are those 5 phases:

  1. defining issues and scenarios,
  2. playing roles,
  3. inspecting and analyzing the scenarios,
  4. discussing the scenarios, and
  5. creating a set of principles.

Phase 1: Defining issues and scenarios

The first step in this phase was pretty simple — just like in the AA meetings, we had to acknowledge that there was a problem, which we can overcome with hard work and dedication.

Our second step was to discuss with the teams the issues they were facing. Then, we created scenarios, a simulation of situations in which conflict had appeared. The funny thing was that everyone had the same issue and there was a pattern — the scenarios repeated themselves.

Phase 2: Playing roles

The second phase of the workshop was the most fun — acting out the scenarios. This phase consisted of 2 steps:

  • each team member wrote down the things he/she would say in a particular situation and
  • team members acted out in pairs that specific situation.

Phase 3: Inspecting and analyzing the scenarios

Inspecting was the most important part. We analyzed how each team member reacted in a situation and decided which was the best way to react. Each team made a group solution and wrote it down in the typeform survey.

Typeform survey proved as a good way of solving communication skills problem, as we were able to track our thoughts and later analyze what has been done.

Bonus time: How did we decide which was the best way to react?

Honestly, it wasn’t that hard. First, we had to analyze what was the issue in the acted situation (dialogue). Then, we tried to name as many solution alternatives as we could, using previously acquired experience and knowledge.

As the time was passing, we slowly started to notice that our colleagues had no problem with speaking their mind. We were already improving our communication skills. Working as a team led us to the phase 4.

Phase 4: Discussing the scenarios

Somewhere in this phase, everything was clear — what are the roles and how teams should act. Sharing ideas and finding a solution as a team helped to improve communication skills.

Phase 5: Creating a set of principles

Such a progress should be documented. Not that we didn’t have a set of rules to follow, but we made a decision to update those principles. This set of guidelines is easily accessible by every co-worker and serves as a reminder and help.

So, what were the benefits?

Besides the fact that we made huge progress in the communication skills domain, we also did it as a team. To create something that made both sides happy was enough of an accomplishment, but to know that all of us together came to a conclusion was priceless.