Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Understanding Communications in Business

There are 3 user areas with which communication is vital to maintain a healthy business. These are:
  • Customers
  • Organisation (The Business)
  • Suppliers
Each user area overlaps in communication

Customers will converse with the Organisation (e.g. Call Centre Agents, Marketing), and Suppliers (e.g. Carrier, Direct Despatch). In an instance such as Direct Despatch, all 3 user areas are in communication.

Within each area, there are many groups. Customers will talk with other customers. TAG agents will talk with other areas of the business. Suppliers will talk within their suppliers and so on.

For a business to succeed, the message they give needs to be direct and clear in order to ensure it carries well, as well as, the messages they send to the business are heard and understood.

A break down in communications has damaging affects. When customers aren’t able to communicate clearly what they want, we can’t offer it to them. When departments don’t communicate overall objectives are often missed. When we don’t keep suppliers abreast of changes within the business, they end up looking bad for not meeting our expectations. And so on.

How to create a good communication model:

Know Your User

Profiling users allows the business to best understand how to deliver the messages they want conveyed.

Profiling starts by gathering good data from each area and creating segments. Customers can be broken down into regions, economies, professions and so on. The organization can be broken down by job focus, skills, psychometrics, incomes and the alike. Suppliers can be grouped by regions, account sizes, dependencies, and more.

These profiling factors often change, so it has to be maintained. The last thing you want to do is communicate information about special offers in Scotland when the customer has moved to Wales.

Communicate Precisely

It is easy to complicate messages because of their broad reach. By breaking up communications into simple messages, targeted to the right person makes a big difference. Being consistent improves the appreciation of the message and being frequent increases the likelihood of the message being understood or acted upon.

In a work environment, being informed that their department succeeded with their objectives, week after week, will instill a belief of success. When a message is sent that offers a different outcome, e.g. poor performance, the message will stand out and be more likely to be better received. Naturally, morale plays an important part in this type of communication. Messages that consistently show up poor performance will have impact on morale.

Two-Way

Communication is often considered as a downward channel, which it is naturally not. By offering a message, we should prepare for a response. By not being prepared we are not communicating and the message becomes less valuable.

An example of being unprepared is with most advertising. As advertising is usually aimed at mass audiences, the message is already complex and without preparing for response we are unsure of the adverts success. This is why so much money is spent in market research, trying to get the message just right. Why simpler adverts tend to be more successful. And why advertising is so expensive as it needs to be delivered frequently in order to be understood.

Advertising in the form of competitions can be considerably more affective, as this generates the return communication required.

However, communications are equally costly to maintain a high level of effectiveness. Allowing a return stream that is limited such as multiple choice questionnaires (including technologies such as Interactive Voice Recording (IVR)) will have some benefit, but not as rich as a more free flowing interaction, e.g. contacting a telephone operative.

If you are able to follow the messages within this one, you have the potential to make your business succeed.

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