Saturday, December 22, 2012

Customer Communications

Customer language may not be what you think it is. We think we know our customers language when we communicate with them. That is not always the case. In communication with customers, companies believe that the customers understand what they are saying. Since communication is in two directions, the assumption is that the company understands what the customer saying and the customer understands what the company is saying.  The purpose of this blog is to examine the assumptions of the communications between the company and its customers.

Company Communication
Companies communicate with their customers from various organizations within the company. The sales organization has one type of communication. The customer support organization has another type of communication. accounts receivable organization will have another type of communication. The shipping department will have still another type of communication.

Each of the company organizations will have different vocabularies. In addition to these vocabularies there may be internal jargon that is unique within the company. It often occurs that internal company jargon will find its way to the customer. In fact, the employee may forget what it's like being without the specialized knowledge that they have acquired while working for the company.  The jargon may be unique for each organization within the company, as well as having jargon that may be used consistently throughout the company. One example of different vocabulary from one department to another is the sales organization may refer to a product by a name created for advertising purposes; while on the other hand, accounts receivable may refer to the product by its product number.

Unfortunately, customers may be communicating with more than one organization at the same time. The likelihood that the communication from the company to the customer from each of these organizations will be consistent and understood may not be at the level of company expects. Sometimes the hand-off from sales to customer service can create problems for the customer.  This particular communication problem may be as simple as matching expectations given by the sales organization to the performance being supported by customer service.

The final complexity occurs as companies expand into multiple areas that may have additional challenges in terms of culture and language.

Customer Communication
Customers come in all shapes and sizes for both B2B and B2C. Of course, the range of customer types for B2C is much greater than B2B.  In either case.a wide range of communication skills from the customers can be expected.

Customers have their own jargon.  Customers also have their own vocabulary and often their own definitions of the words they use, which may or may not track dictionary definitions. Many of the problems that occur between customers and companies arise from the communication and lack of consistent definitions between the two.

The Solution
Most companies do not realize this is a problem. Most companies believe their customers always understand the communication from the company. They also believe their employees always understand all customer communications. It is easy to conclude from the preceding discussion that these beliefs or assumptions are false.

The first step of the solution is to recognize that there is a communications problem.

The second step of the solution is to identify internal jargon and that must be eliminated from the communication to the customer.

The third step is to train all personnel that interface with customers to use a common language.

The fourth and most difficult step is to train all personnel that interface with customers to be aware of the communications variation from customer to customer and how to handle it.

The bottom line is that customer communication is imperfect. It is not just the company nor is it just the customer. The communication problem extends in both directions. If a company wants to increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty it must first reduce communication errors.

1 comment:

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