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I've long found Marketing Communications a misnomer. More often than not, it should be called Marketing Monologue... but I get it. It's tough to have a real dialogue with a customer who isn't right in front of you. That's fair. But when you do have them on the phone or right in front of you, are you making the most of it? Are you really getting to the crux of public relations?

"Can I help you?" It's the most commonly used phrase when customers enter your store, check into your hotel, visit your law firm, etc. But beyond the pleasantry, do you really mean it? Are your employees empowered by a culture where they are really there to help—or do they just sell things?

Let's say you sell dresses. A woman walks into your store. "Can I help you?" asks the clerk in a monotonous tone.

"I'm here to buy a dress."

"Great, dresses are in the corner by the dressing room. We just got some new black slimming ones I'm sure you're going to love."

But instead of simply selling the dress, a relationship will be better formed by evaluating the customer's need state. Solve the need before it is stated—or ask enough questions to understand the need. WHY is she buying the dress? WHY does she need the dress?

Your need states will vary by industry or environment. For instance, a customer in an airport bookstore at 7 AM likely has a very different need state than one in a downtown bookshop on a Saturday afternoon.

But taking time to understand customer need states will help you establish not only customer loyalty but increase sales exponentially as well. You will develop customers who come back time and time again, and they will not help but be able to refer you to their friends.

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Rachel Honig is Principal at Shankman | Honig, a customer-service strategy firm with a marketing focus. She works with global retailers, technology providers, hospitality brands and nonprofits in identifying the best way to communicate with existing and new clientele.