Many organizations could improve results if their external and internal communication worked together to improve the customer experience. For this to work, internal communication would need to broaden its role. Some are doing that.
I recently addressed a conference of business communication professionals on the role of a trusted advisor, a term used by David Maister in his superb book by that name. From my perspective of 30-plus years working with business leaders, improved business results is first on my list of “what clients look for” in a trusted advisor. That’s sine qua non because if a so-called trusted advisor doesn’t improve the business, he or she probably doesn’t add value.
Marketing communication, brand communication and advertising have historically focused on building brand equity among customers and prospects through brand positioning–what the brand stands for in the minds of customers and prospects relative to its competition. Today, they’re working diligently within a technological maze to identify tighter causal relationships between their work and its impact on sales and profitability.
Meanwhile, internal communication has long played what amounts to a journalistic role that distributes news and information to employees using formal communication such as newsletters, email, videos, town hall meetings, blogs and wall posters. What was done 20 years ago and what is done today remains the same, except it’s been digitized.
I told the internal communication people in the audience that they have a huge opportunity to make a profound impact on business results, IF they focus on improving the customer experience as promised by the brand people.
I used three examples: Geico promises that 15 minutes or less can save you 15 percent on car insurance. BMW promises the ultimate driving machine. FedEx promises your package will get there overnight. Guaranteed.
These are worthy brand promises, brought to us by the marketing and advertising people at these three companies. But behind the external communication people in these companies are 470,000 employees whose work in one way or another helps to deliver on the promises.
These same 470,000 people are bombarded by thousands of signs, signals, cues and messages daily. They need to sort through the onslaught of messages, make decisions and act in a way that delivers at least part of the promise–every time.
This means leaders at all levels of these organizations need to consistently communicate the business context, vision and strategy, as well as the brand strategy. The mixed messages, slow moving, inaccurate, or non-existent information must be at an absolute minimum, if not altogether gone.
Measurement, reward, recognition, learning and development systems and work processes also need to be perfectly aligned with what leaders are saying and the action they’re taking. The walk and the talk must match.
Whether there are five or 470,000 people in our organization, everything we do—all of our actions– flow naturally and directly from how well communication has been managed. The customer feels it and reacts by buying our products and services, or someone else’s.
In multiple ways, customers receive information (C1) about our company, products and services. They’re exposed to our brand promise. They decide whether they’re going to do business with us (C2), then they buy (C3).
Also in multiple ways, employees receive information (E1) that comes from what the organization says and does. That information drives decisions that people make (E2) which, in turn, drive actions–what people do (E3).
The cumulative effect of all those actions creates the experience felt by customers (C4). Customers encounter our organization in many different ways. Each encounter is a touch point where customers come into contact with us. They use our products and services. They receive our bills. They drive by our billboards. They talk to our employees in the customer service department. They see how we act. They notice our attitude. They know whether we were on time or late.
Based on that experience and what our organization continues to promise in its external communication, increasingly fickle customers make decisions that drive what they do–either buy from us again or move on to someone else who delivers a better promise or does a better job of delivering on their promise.
The actions that result from employee decision moments either please customers or annoy them, invite them back or divert them to competitors.
This is how the workplace connects to the marketplace.