This is about responding to enquiries from clients for business information, asking the right questions so that you can find out what they need, and presenting the information appropriately. It includes being able to build relationships with clients, whether you are dealing with them over the phone, by e-mail or face-to-face so that they gain confidence in the service you can provide.
What you need to show
You must make sure that your practice meets the following requirements.
a Deal with client enquiries efficiently and politely, in line with relevant guidelines for providing support services.
b Maintain contact and exchange information with clients through face-to-face meetings or by phone or e-mail.
c Encourage your clients to clearly explain what they need and to ask for more information and help, if and when they need it.
d Ask questions to that allow you to understand what your clients need, so that you can identify what business information or other support services may help them.
e Ask for advice and guidance when you are not confident in your understanding of the client’s business needs.
f Manage client’s expectations in responding to their information needs, in terms of potential benefits, limitations, timescales and any costs involved.
g Direct clients who need specialist information or advice to those qualified to provide such support, provide contact details, make introductions or appointments, where appropriate.
h Propose and promote services (including costs) that are likely to meet your clients’ needs.
i Advise clients about any funding that they are eligible to claim for business support services.
j Make sure that your clients understand the scope of the services offered by your organisation.
k Keep up-to-date and accurate records of client contact at all stages of the process.
l Assure your clients of confidentiality at all times.
m End contact with a client in a way that encourages them to contact you in the future.
What you need to know and understand
You need to know, understand and be able to apply each of the following.
Interpersonal and communication skills
1 How to use effective interpersonal and communication skills, including, when appropriate:
o dealing with clients with different backgrounds and cultures;
o listening fully and attentively;
o questioning and reflecting back;
o checking accuracy;
o respecting and acknowledging issues;
o interviewing, reviewing and deciding on needs;
o giving, receiving and passing on constructive feedback;
o guaranteeing client confidentiality; and
o dealing with difficulties.
2 The benefits and drawbacks of different kinds of communication in different circumstances (for example, face-to-face contact, phone, fax and e-mail).
3 How to deal with clients whose first language is not English.
4 Different ways that clients may react to and take in information.
5 The importance of pacing information in a way that will aid understanding to suit the client’s capacity to absorb it.
6 Why and when to check that the client is making sense of the information you are presenting.
Client information needs
7 How to recognise the nature of the enquiry and why the client needs the information or product.
8 What questioning techniques may be suited to the client’s communication style and information needs.
9 How to deal with an enquiry in a way that satisfies the client.
10 The answers to frequently asked questions from clients.
11 The client’s personal and business objectives and needs.
12 The client’s business operations.
13 How to investigate beyond the client’s stated needs to explore what their real needs may be.
14 How business needs may vary in terms of:
o stage of development;
o the industrial sector they operate in; and
o whether they are public, private or voluntary sector.
15 How to identify whether a client’s business information needs can be met by your organisation or by any other services.
16 The limits of your own skills and knowledge.
17 When and where to get any advice, if you do not understand the client’s business.
18 The importance of operating legally.
Business information research skills
19 The advantages and disadvantages of different sources of information, including:
o local information;
o statistical information;
o market research information;
o in-house or online databases, business directories and guides;
o newspapers, periodicals and specialist business publications;
o information on companies and products;
o information from councils and government; and
o information about legislation (eg Employment Law, Health and Safety Law, Business taxation, Environmental protection, Intellectual property, International trade).
20 How to research different information systems (eg the Internet, own organisation’s information materials or another organisation’s resources).
21 How to exploit the potential of computer and paper‑based information systems.
22 What format to use to present the results of the research (eg market or statistical information, abbreviations, use of the Internet to locate information, business start up information, legislation and regulations).
23 How to present different types of business information so that it is clear and easy to follow for different audiences.
Business support services
24 The features and benefits of the business support services provided by your organisation, and those of any other local or national services that you direct clients to (eg business and specialist advice, training, workshops or academic courses).
25 Roles and responsibilities within your organisation.
26 The guidelines for providing support services set by your organisation or professional body about:
o maintaining confidentiality in different working environments;
o ethics, values and professional standards;
o equal opportunities, diversity and social inclusion;
o funding and other support available to the client;
o using information management systems;
o using invoicing systems, pricing and credit-control policies; and
o procedures for quality assurance and handling complaints.
27 The role of your organisation in developing competition among local businesses.
Funding and resources
28 What business support is available, what the referral procedures and costs are (for example, other kinds of business support, specialist advice, learning and information resources).
29 How to co-ordinate support services that match different client needs.
30 The funding that is available and relevant to the client’s needs.
31 The procedures of funding agencies.
You need to show the following behaviours.
32 Appreciate how an organisation operates in different client sectors. IiP1.1
33 Tailor your approach to align with the client’s goals and circumstances. IiP1.2
34 Respect the client’s need for information, commitment and confidentiality. IiP1.3
35 Deliver thoughts in straightforward terms, but maintain listener interest IiP4.2
36 Listen and respond effectively, and check understanding. IiP4.3
37 Have a rigorous but impartial questioning style IiP4.4
38 Adapt your personal style to empathise with a whole range of clients. IiP6.1
39 Build and maintain rapport over sustained periods. IiP6.2
40 Invite a two-way exchange of information and feedback with clients and others. IiP6.3
41 Maintain an impartial approach by avoiding subjectivity or making assumptions.
42 Persevere in trying to find the most appropriate information.
43 Be patient when questioning clients and presenting information.
Links to other National Occupational Standards
There are other NOS suites which you may want to refer to if you would like to develop your knowledge and abilities to a greater depth in certain topics covered by the Business Information standards. For this unit they are:
Ento Advice and Guidance units:
AG1 Establish communication with clients for advice and guidance
AG2 Support clients to make use of the advice and guidance service
AG3 Develop interactions with advice and guidance clients
AG4 Interact with clients using a range of media
AG5.1 Assist clients to clarify their requirements
Council for Administration Business Administration units:
105 Store and retrieve information
209 Store, retrieve and archive information
219 Use a telephone system
Institute of Customer Service Customer Service units:
3 Communicate effectively with customers
6 Recognise and deal with customer queries, requests and problems
10 Promote additional services or products to customers
15 Deal with customers in writing or using ICT
16 Deal with customers face to face
17 Deal with customers by telephone
Those in a supervisory role may wish to refer to the Managements Standards Centre Management and Leadership unit:
E11 Communicate information and knowledge