Client Communications

sunglasses-hand-smartphone-deskClients are one of the most important components of any business. Whether you deal with one-time customers or regular customers, the way you communicate with your clients is crucial for your business. A good relationship can be cultivated through communication, and this can lead to referrals and many other benefits for your business. There are many way techniques and approaches to effectively communicating with customers, and their levels of effectiveness can vary from industry to industry. We will go over some general rules that have proven to be effective in leaders of different industries. These rules can be adapted to different situations, and you can always expand on them in order to benefit your strategy.

Self-Awareness is key:

Understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses is key to success. By working on evaluating ourselves and/or companies, we can effectively address those problems that may hinder our progress, while we can also exploit our best traits. In terms of communication with clients, it is always important to be aware of what our limitations can be, as for example, an image consultant will communicate more with its clients than a company that sells clothes. If this proves to be tricky, there are tools and assessments that you can look for that can help you improve your self-awareness, for example, the Myer-Briggs Type Inventory, a psychological assessment created in order to evaluate consistencies in behavior, helping us better understand our personalities in terms of our own perception and judgement. Always remember to also evaluate your limitations in terms of workload and any other constraints that may affect your ability to communicate with your clients.

You are aware of yourself, now be aware of your clients:

Be aware of who your clients are. Follow up with check-ups, assessments, or surveys. Get to know who your clients are, as this is the best way to assess your business better and improve your strategies. Understanding the points of view of your clients can help you understand the expectations of those who choose you out of anyone else in the market you are in. Make sure to not underestimate the importance of being aware of your clients. In addition, make sure to keep your clients updated on the work you’re doing for them. You are responsible for the work they are asking you to do, and the clients will greatly appreciate being up to date on the progress of your works. If you can, along with keeping your clients updated, involve your clients with your decisions, this can also be a plus, however, make sure to not over-do it, as at the end of the day, your client chose you because he/she believes you are the most indicated one to make the big decisions and help them overcome the problems they came up to you with.

You are aware, now it is time to develop your skills further:

There will always be room for improvement, especially when it comes to mastering your skills. In this case, your listening skills are what we are focusing on, and you should always work to improve the way your communication with your clients affects the future of your business. Listening to your clients is not only a great way to get feedback on your work, but it can also help you improve your relationship with your clients. Always make sure to ask questions when necessary, as these can also help clarify and better understand what the client communicates to you.

Client communications are always a big part of business, and you should not take the subject lightly. Always work to improve the way you handle your customers, as they do not only help your business keep going, but they can also help your business grow better.

Are you transparent with your clients? Tell us on Twitter @nycimageacademy.

Shanna Wu Pecoraro

For more information visit http://www.nycimageconsultantacademy.com

European Etiquette

Traveling to a foreign country for work is exciting, but it can be just as enjoyable as it can be stressful. In business it is important to always have some knowledge of local customs, in order to always be giving the best personal image we can of ourselves. Learning etiquette is the best way to not only be proper during social events or meetings, but it also helps to show respect and gratitude for the culture in which one is at the moment, hence why etiquette can vary from place to place and why it is relevant to know the specific rules for each culture one has to participate in. Here are the general etiquette guidelines for three of the most known countries in Europe: France, Germany, and Italy.

Euro Dining

France- 5 things to watch out for dinner: Your voice, the bread, the substitutions, the silverware, and your hands and elbows. A common complaint from restaurants in France regarding Americans is that they speak too loudly, so try to always keep your tone soft, subtle, and the volume low. For the bread, you should not be surprised if it is not served before the main dish as it happens in the United States. The bread it is served along the main course, and you should not worry about having to put your bread on your table if you do not have a plate to put it on; this is sometimes expected. For the substitutions, they should not happen. It is better to stick with the dishes you asked for in the first place, as French restaurants expect the customers to defer their expertise of the chef. For the silverware, remember that the knife goes in the right hand while the fork goes on the left hand. Make sure that between breaks you cross your knife and fork on your plate, with the fork on top, otherwise the server may assume you are done with your food. For your hands and elbows always keep your elbows off the table and your hands visible throughout the meal.

Germany- 5 things to watch out for dinner: Your food, the water, your napkin, where you pass to, and your plate. For your food, utensils are used even for food such as pizza. However, Germans use knives only when absolutely necessary, cutting their food with the side of the fork when they can. For the water, always ask for it, since servers do not bring water unless you ask for it, and they usually charge for it. Always make sure to place your napkin to the left side of your plate when you’re done and folded when you are just leaving for a moment. When passing a dish to someone to the table, always pass it to the left, but if it is something like the salt or the pepper, pass it directly to the person who requested it. For your plate, always make sure to finish your food, as hosts assume that something was wrong if you do not finish the food served to you.

Italy- 5 things to watch out for dinner: Punctuality, your pace, silverware use, coffee. Always arrive on time, and be prepared to wait for your colleagues. Slow down your pace, as Italians eat much slower than us Americans do, and dinners can last from 3 to 4 hours. For silverware use, the same guidelines are used as in Germany and France; always eat with your silverware.

How to Assert Yourself in a Respectful, Non-bragging Manner

Many of us grew up learning from our parents and teachers how important it was not to brag about ourselves.  We were told, “it’s rude to be boastful”.  In fact, avoiding the temptation to brag is a commandment found in the books of several major world religions.

Image consultants – by the nature of what we do – work in the realm of perception.  We advise our clients to improve their confidence levels through their appearance, behaviors, and communication. We encourage them to utilize different colors, fabrics, and styles in order to dress for every occasion.  We teach them to enter every room with a purpose.  These things work for most, and yet, it’s a tough quality to teach.  Each situation where we are expected to impress presents itself with different clues and social codes.  One of the most frequent questions I get (and it comes from students of all ages and backgrounds) is “How do I assert myself without bragging?”

Blue jacket

It’s a great question, and I’ll provide some tips that have worked for me here.

One of the most vital ways that leaders impress those who follow them is through body language.  You can use this, too.  Basics, like eye contact, appropriate distance in a room, hand gestures, and most importantly – your posture – are incredibly important.  If you’re looking to share your intelligence with a potential client in a crowded room, make sure you approach them with strong posture, a winning smile, and a strong handshake.  Make sure your breath is fresh (but if you chew gum to freshen, be sure to spit it out before your approach said party).  Make good eye contact, especially with the people on your “list”, without staring them down. Practicing these tips with a parent, a friend or a mentor beforehand will make you significantly stronger at these things.

Have several topics on the top of your brain and be prepared to discuss them.  At least one topic should be relevant to your dealings with the person (i.e. business or educational), but also be aware of breaking news in your industry, in your geographic region, and know at least a new restaurant, shop, or movie you can recommend.  Usually, someone will speak to something that connects with one of these 3 topics, and you can confidently elaborate from there.  The fact that you’re prepared will make you appear confident, and not arrogant.

Finally, whether you’re at a cocktail party, a business meeting, or out with friends, you should always be inclusive of those present and those not present.  Emphasize teamwork by saying “we” and not “I”, even if you did the majority of the work on a project.  Future bosses, clients and friends all appreciate this.  Do not put other people down, as this does not help you build yourself back up, and once you’ve done it, the conversation can turn south quickly.  If someone has given you bad news or a negative response, simply state the facts without making it personal.  If you don’t know the answer to something, say it!  It’s always better to say “Let Me Get Back To You” than to provide an incorrect answer.

Finally, if you make a mistake – no matter how large or small – acknowledge it in the conversation.  This shows that you aren’t perfect (none of us are, after all!), but that you are confident enough to correct an error.  People appreciate this and will respect you tremendously for it.

We hope you’ve found this helpful, and welcome your stories, tips and comments on our blog.

Shanna Wu Pecoraro

Guys: Focus on the Styling Tips Your Parent’s Didn’t Teach You!

It was once said that ladies represented “the fairer sex”, while the idea of the gentleman signified a braver, more serious gender.  Any truths related to these assumptions may be due to human genetics, one’s upbringing, or both.  You can check out shows like Mad Men (AMC Networks) for brilliant examples of characters dressing for success.  By following the classic rules of dressing, these characters always looked their very best.

Science and television aside, the world in 2014 maintains a certain code of basics for men and women’s fashion; following such a code can help men embrace the shapes, colors, and styles that build confidence and increase the affect of their personal brand.  Let’s talk about some of these basics now.

 

Man's suits

Color 

It is important to think about the relationship between your complexion and your outfit.  If you have a higher contrast between your hair, skin and eyes, then you should add a stronger color contrast to your outfit.  Try to use your body’s natural pigments in your outfits; accentuate your handsome eyes, freckles and smile!

And for accessories, if you don’t know which tie to wear, wear one that’s the same color as your shirt – it’s the easiest way to complete your outfit.

Shirts and Pants

When it comes to shirts, if you have a rounded face you should use long, pointed collars.  If you have a narrow face, you should use spread collars.  It’s a similar paradigm with pants: If you have a long torso with short legs, avoid low-rise pants.  If you have wider hips, look for suit jackets with side vents.

Jackets

Your seams should fall along the shoulder, always, and the length of your sleeve should allow some shirt cuff to show.  ¼ inch – ½ inch is acceptable; jackets and shirts will vary slightly in length.  Play with these, as you’ll usually enhance your look by contrasting the jacket with the shirt colors at the end of the arm.

Ties

Your bow ties should fit within the frame of the outer edges of your eyes.  Normal ties should reach the middle of your belt buckle; no longer, no shorter.

 

Shanna Wu Pecoraro, AICI CIP & the team of NYC Image Consultant Academy

For more info www.nycimageconsultantacademy.com

Bullying: Always Out of Fashion

In an image-conscious culture filled with social media pundits, fashion critics, and intimidating crowds, it’s easy to think that the rallying cries of the past few years against bullying do not apply to us as image workers.  After all, some of the most memorable characters in films and television over the past few years have been ruthless, coldhearted, and show stealers!  Think of Meryl Streep playing an influential and ruthless fashion editor in The Devil Wears Prada (20th Century Fox, 2006) or Pete Campbell, the advertising sales executive in Mad Men (AMC Networks, 2007 – ).

These characters share more in common than their spoken words indicate, however.  The common trait is insecurity, and long-term feelings of insecurity unfortunately create feelings of inadequacy, which causes people to overcompensate with inflated egos and often ruthless behavior.

Words can hurt, and they influence us from the boardroom on down. “He is not a match for our brand” may be an accurate and acceptable statement heard in your professional circles, but comments like “She’s a whale”, “He’s got gross chicken legs”, or “Her modern dress line is ass-backwards” are rude. Repeated, constant comments like this to a person or about a person may constitute as bullying.

light-black-and-white-people-dark

The 2014 WBI U.S Workplace Bullying Survey (workplacebulling.org) states that bullying can include:

  • Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating behavior
  • Verbal abuse
  • Work interference (sabotage), which prevents work from getting done

Since 2010, the month of May has been dubbed Civility Awareness Month.  Businesses like JP Morgan Chase, _city of brooklyn__, city governments, and our own industry association AICI (www.aici.org) have recognized Civility Awareness month, and have made commitments to recognize the importance of non-bullying behavior.

There is a difference between rude behavior and being bullied, however.  Being bullied means that you’ve been specifically singled out. Chrissy Scivicque  states that definitions for bullying include words like “systematic, hostile, threatening, abusive, humiliating, intimidating, and sabotage. In short, bullies are intentionally trying to harm you and your ability to do your work.”  When it comes to your personal image, personal safety, and sense of well-being, nothing should stand in your way of ensuring

Last month, we discussed the latest shows and ..

Removing yourself from any kind of bullying behavior is not only the kind thing to do – it’s the courteous thing to do, and should mirror the type of etiquette that image consultants everywhere should emulate.

If you think you’ve been a victim of bullying, take a further look at this article 5 steps for handling a workplace bully – us news http://bit.ly/1hK0Tmy.  And whether you’ve been bullied or have been the bully, take a step back and remember the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.

 

Shanna Wu Pecoraro, AICI CIP & the team of NYC Image Consultant Academy

For more info www.nycimageconsultantacademy.com