What is Interpersonal Communication and Why It’s Important to IT Customer Service

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As a CIO, IT manager, or MSP/TSP owner, you understand how vital it is for your IT customer service team to communicate effectively with customers and teammates. Interpersonal skills are central to every person-to-person interaction. Whether interacting professionally or personally, interpersonal communication skills provide the opportunity to eliminate hurtful communication and build trust that will improve future interactions as well.

Effective communication is particularly important in workplace interactions where the stakes are high with clients and colleagues. In this post, you’ll learn what interpersonal communication is and why it’s important to IT customer service.

What Is Interpersonal Communication?

Interpersonal communication involves every act of conveying messages to another person. This is done through verbal communication, nonverbal signals, written correspondence, or vocal tone. Interpersonal communication extends beyond the simple exchange of information. It also includes thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a conversation where someone’s words and facial expressions don’t seem to align. For IT customer service teams, it’s important that styles of communication put customers at ease and gain their trust. Whether intended or not, even extreme introverts risk sending an inconsistent message without an awareness of how certain words or body language are perceived.

To communicate effectively, you and each member of your team must understand all aspects of interpersonal interactions – including word choice, body language, and other nonverbal communication.

Why Is Interpersonal Communication Important? 

Interpersonal communication affects nearly every element of the workplace including client interactions, interpersonal relationships between colleagues, and exchanges between managers and their direct reports. If any of these interactions are unsatisfactory, it can have a profound effect on the entire workplace.

Interpersonal communication affects client satisfaction. Solving a technical problem is important in IT, but doing it in a way that makes the customer feel good about the interaction is even more critical. Awkward, uncomfortable, or unclear communication between your team members and their clients can negatively affect the client’s satisfaction and, ultimately, their reviews of your service. It can also make internal customers hesitant to call on IT the next time there’s a problem, waiting until an issue is emergent before reaching out instead of asking for help early to avoid a bigger problem.

Interpersonal communication affects workplace culture. Workplace relationships are a major factor in employee satisfaction. They play a bigger role in employee retention than pay! Interactions between colleagues – both professional and social interactions – impact how staff feels about their workplace, how much they engage with others when they’re in the office, and how motivated they are to perform in their roles. When employees have the interpersonal skills to connect with their coworkers – whether tackling a work-related issue or casually discussing weekend plans – the whole team is strengthened, employee satisfaction increases, and the overall workplace culture gets a boost.

Types of Interpersonal Communication

There are four types of interpersonal communication: oral, written, nonverbal, and listening.

Oral communication: Oral communication encompasses any interaction that’s spoken or verbal. It includes face-to-face conversations, phone calls, collaborative team meetings, presentations, and public speaking. This category focuses primarily on the words used during an interaction.

Written communication: Written communication includes anything that is intended to be read by a recipient. This includes articles, reports, and emails as well as text messages, chats, and supplemental elements like GIFs or emojis.

Nonverbal communication: Nonverbal communication consists of body language, facial expressions, tone, and verbal inflection. Eye contact, posturing (like crossed arms or a slumped-over appearance), and verbal pacing also fall under this category. 

Listening: Interpersonal communication isn’t just about delivering information. It’s also about receiving it and responding appropriately. Listening is an essential element of interpersonal communication and is necessary for an effective back-and-forth interaction.

These four types of interpersonal communication don’t exist independently of one another. In an ideal interaction, they augment each other. For example, when an IT professional is listening to a customer, they’ll display nonverbal communication like good eye contact and body language that conveys their interest in the customer’s concern. Their oral communication will be empathetic and their words will be consistent with their facial expressions. Written communication regarding the IT call will be clear and professional and match the tone of the rest of the interaction. 

When all four types of interpersonal communication are consistent, the interaction is more likely to be successful and comfortable for all parties involved. When there is inconsistency (for example, someone’s body language doesn’t match their words), the interaction is more uncomfortable and can even be confusing.

Interpersonal Communication and IT Customer Service

Interpersonal communication skills can be used effectively to improve your ability to communicate with others. Communication experts point out they can also be used to improve your technical skills so that you can work more efficiently with coworkers, customers, and superiors. In addition, these skills can be used to develop your leadership capabilities so that you can lead others more effectively.

There are many ways interactions can go sideways. Language barriers make communication difficult. Interpersonal barriers like unintended nonverbal messaging or a lack of awareness of body language or social cues make interactions awkward. Asynchronous communication, like email, means there is no immediate or face-to-face feedback. Individuals have to discern a message without the benefit of tone found in verbal communication.

While these challenges are frustrating in personal relationships, the consequences can be severe in the workplace. And since IT professionals work with customers, colleagues, and staff at every level of an organization, they need to master this essential skill to ensure the proper outcomes of communication.

Customer Service Skills for IT Professionals

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