What's your business body language

There are plenty of books about how to read body language, and the TV series "Lie to me" takes it to another level, depicting a body language expert who solves all manner of mysteries simply by being able to gauge if a person is telling the truth.

To be authentic, the basic formula is that your words, your tone of voice and what you do with your body all need to be in alignment. You won't come across as truthful if you tell someone you're completely interested in what they're saying, but you're turning away or looking at your watch while they're talking.

The same applies to any business or organisation and the way you communicate with your customers. You might say in your advertising or on your website that you're committed to customer service, but the person answering the phone in your office might come across as though a customer is the last person on earth they want to deal with. Or, you might tell your staff that their views matter, but your actions say something completely different.

So, just as we can give out mixed signals if our words, tone and gestures don't match up, you could be doing the same to important people in your business because your business body language is out of kilter. That will leave customers and other stakeholders feeling confused, uncomfortable or just plain annoyed. Chances are they'll feel like walking away.

It all comes down to how genuine you really are in the messages you put out there. Is your mission statement that hangs so proudly in your office just empty words, or is it something everyone in your business lives and breathes every day? Consistency is key. Rather than trying to be all things to everybody, choose what's most important to you in serving your customers, and do that really well. Make sure all your staff understand it and have the skills to do it, and make a point of reinforcing that message in every piece of communication - from your ads, website, emails and letters to staff memos and team talks.

Your business body language can be a powerful tool in reinforcing your relationship with your customers. Make it work for you, rather than costing you business.