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Customer Communication – The Broken Parts

Reams have been written over communication! Organizations are acutely aware of the importance of communication and hire agencies to help them craft their communication with the media, public, stakeholders etc. There are myriad, well written case studies which outline how mature organizations raised the bar on communication during crises and garnered acclaim with their gravitas and emerged with stronger brand salience.

Yet we find this is not so when it comes to Customer Communication. Our work with frontline across industries including Telecom, Realty, Consumer Appliances, ecommerce highlight gaps. One would expect large organizations to be closely aware of customer issues and the need to equip frontline with tools & techniques to assuage customer grievances and provide clear communication. There are a host of issues including but not limited to –

· frontliners besieged with obsolete CRM systems,

· struggle with (unscripted!) customer escalations,

· failure to have robust close-looping arrangements for pending issues,

· unable to handle emotional customer conversations

· slip on basic email etiquette including – language, tone, courtesy, providing requisite information, timeliness in responses

· shoddily constructed SMS messages to customers replete with industry jargon

This is observed across Touchpoints – Contact Center, Back Offices, Relationship Managers, Retail.

It is puzzling that Leadership does not recognize and realize the immense challenges that frontliners face, and the baneful impact on Customer Experience & Trust. As is evident from the above, the issues are not confined to any one aspect but are pervasive and possibly span – Process, Technology, Product Complexity, Training & Awareness, Employee Selection, Engagement, Supervisory Attention. The underlying root causes for these lacunae vary across organizations and warrant a separate discussion.

Consumer facing organizations need to double down on addressing Frontline issues and Customer Communication needs to be a focal point with accent on the following –

· Leadership to directly engage with customer and frontline issues to understand the drivers

· Provide Technology support, with Consumer Technologies being put in place. This would go a long way in addressing hygiene issues plaguing customer communication including – reminders, follow-ups & close-looping, checklists. In our experience, organizations have prioritized Acquisition Technologies, which put Sales far ahead of Customers

· Sharpen Learning & Development/Training interventions through curated content aimed at helping anxious frontliners navigate stressful customer conversations. This is not easy, it requires effort and time. We see that most of the Frontline Training content typically showcases product & process knowledge, with behavioural dimensions taking a backseat

· Learn from past Critical Incidents to understand what could have been done better and build into L&D interventions on an ongoing basis.

· Boost Supervisory attention to support frontline on escalations. While Supervisors / Team Leads are expected to deal directly with escalations, some organizations in our observation, did not have monitoring mechanisms to gauge and assess this.

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