Is Poor Customer Communication Hurting Your Business?

By Holly Zoba Senior VP of Sales - Hospitality, Signature Worldwide | April 01, 2012

Remember that old game of telephone where one person whispers a sentence in the next person's ear and the sentence is repeated around the room. By the time the sentence is repeated aloud by the last person, it has very little resemblance to the original.

Is it possible that the brand message of your company is suffering the same fate? I feel certain that the top management of my local grocery store would be mortified if they realized how their messaging was being delivered by their frontline. I am sure they did not start the communication process by asking their employees, whenever possible, to see how little eye contact and verbal interaction they can have with their customers during the check out process. Yet that is the message I am receiving whenever I am forced by convenience to visit that store. Yes, I do still go there from time to time, but usually I avoid it for any major shopping events. They have a spectacular marketing department because I get very personalized coupons for products I use, so I know someone in that organization recognizes that I might be important to their business, but I think they neglected to communicate that to their store employees.

Guest surveys and net promoter scores should be helping, but to date we have not seen a big impact. If your organization is not already surveying their customers, to find out on a scale of 1 to 10 if they would recommend your company to a friend, they no doubt soon will be. The answer to that single question determines if this individual is a promoter or a detractor of your business. Obviously, promoters are good, detractors bad. Once again, it is a great tool as long as the information is being used for good and not evil.

How can an organization use the information for evil? The answer is when the only people who know the results are the marketing department and senior management. If your organization is scoring low, chances are good your issues are communication and often the communication of these results suffers the same fate as other major top-level initiatives. Nobody thinks to share it with the people making the daily impact on customer perceptions – that being the frontline.

Communication issues regarding frontline employees seem to be focused on four areas:

  • Competency – can the employee answer simple questions or assist with the basics?
  • Convenience – does the employee make it easy to do business with the company?
  • Being Proactive – does the customer feel like the employee is looking out for them in any way?
  • Personalizing – does the employee know who I am, or at least, who I think I am?

It is not surprising that 78% of consumers have halted a transaction based on poor customer service. When I read this statistic, I could not help but think about a typical hotel-reservation office conversion rate which is between 12-17%. What that means is that in the hotel world, 83-88% is often bailing on the transaction. In some cases, the rate or location may be to blame – but in this day of internet research, when a customer has made it all the way through Google searches and TripAdvisor review comparisons and they are actually calling your hotel, if you are losing 88% of those callers, you might have a problem!

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