For example, someone said to me recently. ‘I don’t get it. We go on and on about the importance of customer service at every conference, but nothing changes.’ Actually, things probably do change. For about a week. Emphasising an important message at a conference is a great way to focus attention, and to create some initial motivation to get something started. But people’s attention is a bit like my dog at the park – unless you keep giving it something to do, it wanders off.
So, if at every conference you emphasise that customer service is important, but then nothing more is communicated about it until the next conference, then of course people will stop focusing on it. They’ve got deadlines to meet, targets to reach, and after they’ve done all that they have to remember to pick up the sausages from the butcher and their daughter from ballet on the way home.
If you have an important message that you want people to remember, respect and implement, you need to communicate it effectively, and that means finding imaginative and interesting ways of reminding people of the message, and creating events and triggers that keep re-focusing their attention on it.
Look for ways to build the message into the day to day workings of the organisation. For example, if the message is ‘we need to provide better customer service’, ask everyone to suggest three things you could do for a customer that will give them a great experience, and share all the suggestions.
Hold monthly customer service seminars and workshops with guest speakers, role plays and discussions about the ins and outs of customer service (March: “Dealing with Difficult Customers”, April; “Turning Indifferent Customers into Fans” etc.). The mere fact that you put them on will re-focus people’s attention on the message that customer service is important.
Get the message out as often as you can, in as many different ways as you can. Be imaginative; put up a big sign that says ’every customer who has a good experience tells 5 people. So does every customer who has a bad one.’ Ring staff at random and talk to them for 5 minutes about their customer service experiences and strategies. Soon everyone will know they could get a call anytime, and that will get them thinking about what they would say if they do, and that will get them thinking about customer service.
If the message you want to communicate is important, treat is like it is important. Messages need to be backed up by action, or else the credibility of the message is undermined. For example, if at a conference the message is ‘We Need to Improve Customer Service,’ but then staff sees no evidence of action, what will they think? “Sure, they talked a good game, but clearly they don’t really care about it.”
Effective ways to communicate, emphasise and reinforce messages don’t just jump out of your iPad. If you want to think of them, turn off your phone and take some time to really think of some imaginative, interesting and provocative ways to grab attention and communicate your messages. Then do it again the next day.