Sometimes it’s not just what you say:
But how you say it:
“Employees must wash hands before returning to their dead-end jobs.”
(Clearly the second is not a sanctioned sign, but the fact a CUSTOMER snapped this photo tells us it fits a bit too well with the internal culture.)
It’s not surprising to understand these little moments fascinate me, since we all know I’m obsessed with microinteractions. Internal communication – those emails and signs we all receive as employees – is ripe for improvement. Employees and your culture have a direct impact on the experience your customers have, and communication within the organization is a HUGE part of that internal experience.
We see the same approaches over and over again. It’s tough – as business leaders we are forced to communicate certain things in certain ways, thanks to regulators and legal teams, and it’s critical to follow the rules. BUT that same governmental, bureaucratic tone seems to seep into everything else communicated to employees. When delivering messages to employees, consider what experience you are trying to deliver to your customers. If the way you communicate internally doesn’t gel with that, then consider a different approach.
Here are a few ideas to focus on your internal communication strategy as another way to improve your customer experience.
Be as honest as you can be.
I’ve been exposed to those yucky situations when it’s difficult to tell workers the truth. Sometimes, it’s because we simply don’t know the truth yet. Will there be layoffs? Sometimes it’s hard to say until just before they happen. Just be honest in saying “We don’t know.” If you really can’t say anything, ask for patience but acknowledge your employees’ desire to know.
Accept your employees are smart enough to know what’s going on.
If the press is buzzing and the hallways are full of whispers, don’t ignore those signals. Address them. Consider your employees as grown ups, and they will respond the same. It’s ok to start with “Let’s address those rumors” and tell the story they are waiting to hear.
Understand a void of communication will create negative perceptions.
By NOT stating things clearly, your employees will jump to the worst possible conclusions. We’ve been trained to do so. Internal communication strategy should include communicating often. Help your culture by creating a place where employees feel IN the loop, not on the edge of it.
Change your pronouns.
Sometimes the editing I do to help internal communication is really about this simple change. “You should” is something we all read as a judgment. It is accusing and patronizing. “We would like” can change the whole tone of a message. “You should be turning in your timesheets on a regular basis” is much different than “We would like to complete our timesheet documentation by Friday at 3:00. Please complete your timesheets by 12:00 Fridays.” It’s NOT us and them and you and me. It’s WE as often as you can. If you can’t seem to make this change in your internal communication messaging, then I’d argue you have a much bigger culture problem.
Don’t forget your please and thank yous.
This one never ceases to amaze me. There was a company I worked with who had super nice and friendly signs and customer communications. They used really approachable language. And then there were those training memos. They were emailed to every single employee, regardless of where they were in the actual training process, and never even included a “Dear Sally” to buffer the blow. They stated things in wordy, corporate-speak paragraphs. And typically, there was a sentence that looked like this:
YOU MUST complete training via the XRS System by Friday, October 1st or YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE YOUR ANNUAL BONUS.
Nothing like a demanding threat to really warm you up to an idea, right?
Watch the signs and be proactive.
Thanks to social media, employees are actually telling us more than ever before. Yes, there are the horror stories from employees live tweeting their own firing to dissing their bosses in daily blogs. But savvy business leaders understand the smoke signals well before it gets to that point. Pay attention to those signals and address what is going on before it blows up!
These are just a few ideas to improve customer experience by improving internal communication culture. What are yours?
Photo credit: srqpix