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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingAugust 15 - August 21, 2018

The Keys to Successful Interaction

communication 9454aBy Brian J. Riker

How many times have you had something go wrong simply because the other person did not fully understand what you wanted or needed?

Tow bosses need to be able to communicate across a diverse group of people. We take for granted that everyone—including employees—understands industry terms or concepts.

The most important communication we must manage is the public perception of our brand. With social media, search engine optimization and more, our consumers are looking to make a connection with us. They want to feel good about who they choose to do business with.

Our story starts with how we see ourselves, the culture we instill in our team and our actions towards the public. We can cite all the platitudes we want, but if day-to-day actions are inconsistent with our brand we will not be successful.

We need to make our customer know that we genuinely care about their situation and truly desire to help. To us it is just another call, but to them it is a stressful and unusual event that is messing up their already hectic day.

Connecting with their emotional state and relating is vital.

Be aware of how your customer sees your behavior. What we think is acceptable may be turning potential customers away. Take the time to truly understand each caller's unique problem when they ask about service; don't assume you know what they need.

I have a family friend in the towing industry that has been successful for the last 40 years despite his public image. Recently he has started feeling the pressure from a poor image and has lost some loyal accounts, simply because another tow company has convinced these customers they are the better service.

After decades of success, he loses business to out-of-area companies because he has not bothered to set himself apart from the others in a positive way.

What makes your company different from all the others? Run with that and make a name for yourself.

How well do you listen?

Learn to, and teach your team to listen to understand rather than listening to simply reply. This one change in behavior will make everyone more effective at communication.

Many of us are guilty of forming our reply before the other person is even done speaking. In doing so, we don't hear what they are really saying; instead our brains fill in the blanks with what we believe is their issue.

Managing customer expectations is another area many struggle with. Tell the customer upfront that he or she will be waiting an hour instead of promising a 30-minute response that you know will take more. You may lose a few jobs to impatient customers, but in the long run you will be ahead because there will be fewer negative opinions about your company on social media. Most of the time, your customers will appreciate the honesty.

Effective and open communication is not just customer-focused. As tow bosses, it is vitally important to be upfront with your team about job expectations, hard times and unpleasant decisions that you have to make. Major changes should not blindside anyone. If an employee is surprised about being terminated, then you are as much at fault for their failure as they are.

Keep everyone in the loop to reduce surprises and tension when things do go wrong ... which they will.

Communication is key to any successful interaction.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at
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