It’s been said that CX is the new competitive battlefield and brands that lead in CX put the customer front and center. If the customer is truly at the center of your CX strategy, then communication with customers must be a cornerstone of that strategy.
Communication is important component of CX, requiring business leaders, particularly marketing leaders, to zero in on a communication challenges, which are often easier to solve than other elements of CX. For example, my fitness club has both a CX problem and a communication challenge. I belong to the fitness club offered through my local park district. Like most government services, it has a modest and reasonably-priced, but CX isn’t high on the list of priorities. I suspect a most funding comes from taxpayer dollars, supplemented by membership fees, which are lower than other clubs in the area. This means they can afford to have a handful of trainers, not an army. As a result, when a trainer is out sick, there isn’t always a back up trainer available to take there place at a moments notice. This occasionally leaves classes uncovered at the last minute. This is rare occurrence, but when it happens, it’s a major inconvenience for members who regularly attend the class, plan their schedule around the class and drive to the fitness club solely for only to find out that the class they planned to attend has been canceled.
In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t happen often or impact a large number of members, which means it probably won’t rise to the top of their list a priorities. Also, solving what is really a staffing problem would require hiring more trainers or cross-training existing staff to expand the number of back-up trainers. The costs involved include labor, training and development and certification fees, all of which has to be approved in the annual budget by the Board of Trustees. Imagine the red tape. It’s unlikely the fitness club will go to these lengths to solve a problem that rarely occurs and affects only a small percentage of members. A far more feasible plan is to improve communication, enabling the fitness club to better manage members’ expectations and provide real-time notifications when there’s an unexpected change to the schedule. As a part of every membership application, the fitness club collects communication information from members (e.g., email address, mobile phone number). Furthermore, the park district as a whole is trying to increase its use of social media by actively soliciting members and nonmembers to like the facility’s Facebook page.
One immediate solution to the communication challenge, and near term opportunity to improve CX, is using the contact information they already gather to create a member database and notify members via email or SMS when a class is cancelled. Another solution to the communication challenge, and a practical reason for members to like the facility’s Facebook page is using Facebook as a platform to inform people of a schedule changes, ideally before they make the trek to the fitness center. The facility already sends emails to everyone in the community who has opted into communication to inform them of upcoming events. Why not use that same channel to communicate with fitness club members when a class is cancelled, recommend alternative classes offered at the same time or encourage them to try other available fitness activities, such as open gym. The result could be improved communication and enhanced customer experience at a much lower cost than addressing staffing issues. While those staffing issues may be the root cause of the problem, and should be addressed if they have a broad or significant impact, when that is not the case, better communication is a viable option.
This is one example where organizations have failed to provide adequate communication to customers, prospects and employees about policies, procedures or plans. Policies and procedures are often outdated and don’t reflect the latest information or they’re inconsistent between internal and external sources of information or across customer-facing touch points. This leaves policy open to interpretation by customers and employees, the latter being far worse since employees are representative of the brand. We saw this play out recently in the case of United Airlines instructing officers to forcibly remove a seated passenger from a plane in order to allow an employee to take that seat (see “United Airlines and the Dollars and Cents of Customer Experience”). In the aftermath, the brand will likely re-evaluate policies and procedures, but it should also review how it communicates those policies and procedures to employees and passengers, how much discretion employees have over execution of policies and procedures and how it communicates in the face of a misstep.
Communication can be the cornerstone of a winning customer experience, whether its part of a broader CX improvement plan or a near-term approach to filling gaps in your experience. Or, a lack of coordinated, consistency and common sense across communication touch points can also undermine any customer experience strategy.