I have written many times in the past about the importance of effective communication if an organisation has an intention to deliver consistently better Customer Experiences. Whilst much of my writing has been focused on the importance of the communication relationship between a company and the customer, I have not been as vocal about the almost equal criticality of the communication between a company and it’s employees.
On a regular basis – and almost increasingly so – I come across people who appear to be confused about a number of things – and I am not talking about their lives outside of the work environment!! When I ask these people very simple questions, more often than not they seem incredulous as to the right answer. For example, have you ever asked someone what their company does. The response should not be complicated, but watch people squirm as they try to find the right descriptive words.
In an era where it is perfectly possible for any human to find out the answer to almost any question under the sun via the simple click of a mouse or ‘swipe’ of a screen, these same humans do not know the fundamentals of what the companies they work for on a daily basis actually do. The major cause of this bizarre scenario is (in my opinion) a significant lack of communication between leaders of organisations and their employees.
This lack of communication is not exclusive to the subject of Customer Experience – it relates to most things companies do. Too many things concocted in swanky board rooms by ‘men and women in suits’ (many of whom are unlikely to have good, accurate and real time information about how their customers and employees ‘feel’ about the company) are done so in intentional secrecy. The dark art of ‘strategy’ is played like a complicated game of chess, but a game behind closed doors and without any video cameras. I apologise to any ‘man or woman in a suit’ who may be reading this – I am being slightly antagonistic and facetious – but sometimes a point needs to be made in a light hearted manner to bring a subject to life.
Please do not confuse my jocularity for ignorance – I am completely understanding of certain key decisions being made without the interjection of anyone but those people paid significant sums of money for having the experience and skill set to do so. However….. there is always one of those – when it comes to making decisions that have a direct impact on the experience that a company intends to deliver to its customers – failure to effectively communicate these decisions to the people who actually deliver the experience is a major error.
I have seen some quite brilliant descriptions of organisational purpose in recent times – clear; simple; meaningful – descriptions that enable every individual in the business to understand the role they play in delivering the Customer Experience. Yet it is almost inexcusable that most people in these organisations have never seen it. Leaders, like their employees, have become so focused on fulfilling tasks, that they forget to communicate the point of why they are doing the task in the first place.
That is why I believe that you simply cannot ‘over’ communicate with anything that is core to your business AND customer strategy. If you want your people to buy in to your strategy; to support it; to be advocates of it; they need to know what it is and what it means for them – what you want/need them to actually do. If you have the intention of becoming a more customer centric business – you need to tell your people. Not once. Not in a poster on a wall that quickly becomes a ‘dust gatherer’ – but continuously – indefinitely.
Over the years I have communicated the importance of Customer Experience to the companies I have worked within almost to the point of irritation (I am sure there are many who may agree!!) – I have done so because as a leader committed to helping the organisations I work with to genuinely achieve their customer centric goals, I know how important it is to continuously instil the message – instil it until the message has become embedded into the psyche of those you are communicating to – until mind sets have been fundamentally shifted.
Communicating the Customer Experience needs to be continuous, innovative and engaging. I and brilliant teams of people have done some quite radical things to get the message across. In 2010, two of my amazing colleagues came up with a communication campaign that we ended up calling ‘Feet in the Street’. Working for an online retailer, we were very conscious of the fact that many employees had never actually had the opportunity to ‘see, touch and feel’ the experience our customers were having on a daily basis. So, to bring it to life in the most effective way possible, we re-created the customer journey in the centre of our head office building, With an enormous red stiletto shoe as the centrepiece, foot prints on the floor led our people through real life displays of the four stages of our customer journey. It was brilliant (even if I do say so myself) and a fantastic way of keeping Customer Experience ‘front and centre’ in the minds of our people.
So what are you communicating to your people – if anything at all. Communicate, communicate, communicate – and then communicate some more. If you want your organisation to really BELIEVE that you have the intention of being a customer centric business, you need to make sure they hear it and see it on a regular basis.