Do you know someone who is a super connector?
You know, that person who can form a connection with just about anyone? It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Well, you can be that person too!
Nearly two decades ago, I started on a journey to promote healing and connection in the debt collection industry. Shame and fear are two of the big emotions at play when someone gets a call from a debt collector. As you can imagine, that makes for some pretty charged conversations between consumers and debt collectors.
As the CEO of a collection agency, I was tired of feeling like the bad guy, so I decided to change my agency's mission. Instead of focusing on the money collected, our primary goal was going to be making people happier at the end of our calls than they were at the beginning.
We were going to become super connectors.
After a lot of hard work and consideration of how everything we said was either creating a connection or driving disconnection, this is what we learned.
1) Know how to build trust
Empathy and compassion build trust. Validation – making people feel heard – is how we build empathy.
I've shared in previous blog posts how when we find someone who connects with our struggle (or triumph), we feel cared for and supported. A level of trust forms. On the flip side, when we don’t feel heard, we have a hard time moving on in a conversation or being emotionally receptive to a solution.
When consumers or clients bring us concerns or complaints (or even a bit of good news), we want to assure them they have been heard.
We communicate that by saying,
I can see how important this is to you.
I can understand your concern.
Thank you for sharing that with me.
For good news...
That’s great! I’m so glad you told me that.
That’s so exciting! I’m happy for you!
Another way to think about validation is putting yourself in the other person's shoes. You're not apologizing or necessarily agreeing with the other person. You're considering his or her situation from another point of view.
2) Are good listeners
Super connectors give the people they’re communicating with a CHANCE to be heard.
They don’t interrupt, and they stay out of advice mode long enough to let the person they’re communicating with a chance to share his or her thoughts.
Super connectors aren't hasty in making judgments either. They're open minded.
3) Talk in terms of solutions
Super connectors say what they CAN do, rather than what they can't do.
How frustrating is it when you reach out to people for help or advice and all they do is point out why they can't help you? It feels pretty terrible, right?
Even if the solution is not the exact one the person is looking for, there is always something you can do, and demonstrating your willingness to find an alternative solution can help you create a positive connection with that person.
Saying what you CAN do builds respect and loyalty. It makes the other person feel important and valued.
Here's an example.
I was teaching a workshop where one of the attendees was the manager of a resale store whose proceeds went to a women's center. The manager said customers were getting frustrated by the store's "no return" policy. She had signs throughout the store and in the dressing rooms noting all sales were final. Even still, shoppers were getting frustrated, and she didn't want to lose customers. Instead of apologizing to customers and reminding them of the store's policy, we decided to have her focus on what she could do. The manager couldn't change the store's policy, but she could let shoppers know that she could provide them with a tax-deductible receipt should they like to re-donate their items.
One more thing.
Super connectors talk in terms of next steps. They always let the people they're communicating with know what is going to happen next, so they aren't left wondering and can move on.
As debt collectors, we've been involved in some of the most difficult conversations on the planet. We've also seen firsthand how validating, being a good listener, and saying what you can do can literally alter the course of relationships.
Because when it comes down to it, we want the people we talk with to feel good about paying their debt. We want them to leave our conversations feeling empowered! And as the story with the thrift store manager shows, being a super connector is important to more than just the collections industry.
Try these strategies out, and tell me what differences you see.
Did I mention that after we decided to focus on the outcome of making people happier, our business revenue grew 34% in the first year?
Now, I want to hear from you. Are there any other qualities of a super connector you would add to this list? Or do you know someone who is a super connector? How do you feel after communicating with that person?