Ineffective Communication Can Cost Businesses. It’s Time To Get Serious About It


Ineffective communication is becoming a much higher financial and productivity cost to businesses. Here, Dorian Stone, General Manager of Grammarly Business, discusses how leaders can reduce the impact of poor communication to achieve their business outcomes and create superior customer experiences.

Working across dispersed teams has exposed an organizational challenge that, if unchecked, will become a major cost to businesses in 2021 — ineffective communication. The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to quickly accommodate work-from-home models while actively building diverse teams with different perspectives and habits. To support that shift, digital adoption among businesses and consumers accelerated at the rate of five years in just two monthsOpens a new window . 

In some cases, businesses adopted disconnected collaboration platforms to help employees communicate with other colleagues and customers—particularly in written form as in-person communication is happening less frequently. However, this can lead to an increased lack of clarity between team members and eroded brand experiences among customers. 

Ineffective communication is already costing businesses. Even before the pandemic impacted the economy, companies couldn’t afford to overlook the value of clear and consistent communication. Research showsOpens a new window that inconsistencies in communication damage brand credibility by over 50%, making it much more challenging to compete in the market and amounting to millions in lost revenue. Ineffective communication leads to poor brand interactions, which drives more than half of consumersOpens a new window never to use a brand again. 

Poor internal communication also impairs organizational productivity. Employees spend time trying to understand emails from colleagues, for example, when they could be engaging with customers or accomplishing critical tasks. The pandemic exaggerated these challenges, replacing what used to be in-person interactions with video chats and written communication. And more writing means employees could miss important takeaways or easily misinterpret a message’s tone.

Addressing these tensions starts with customer experience (CX) teams on the frontlines with employees and customers. From selecting the right channels to reach consumers to taking a business outcome-based approach to upskilling workforces, here are some ways businesses can reduce the impact of ineffective communication.

Learn More: Solving ‘New Normal’ Problems Requires Integrated Communications Technologies

Evaluate Communications Channels To Meet New Demands

Companies increasingly embrace omnichannel strategies to address rising customer contact volume while maintaining positive experiences. A studyOpens a new window by Deloitte found that 53% of companies expect an increase in customer contact instances over the next two years, meaning there’s even more pressure to get it right. 

Rather than offer customers more ways to get in touch, brands should consider shifting their focus to channels that provide more efficient touchpoints. Video chat, live messaging, social media, and email are common modes of customer communication, but which ones will help a company resolve concerns most efficiently and accurately?

Here are a few considerations when evaluating which channels to prioritize:

  • Take inventory of channels used across the organization: Is the contact center using voice phone, while the technical support team uses text chat? 
  • Prioritize channels through feedback: Where is the company currently seeing the most engagement? Use this information to help prioritize channels. Asking your audience about preferred channels directly is also acceptable in some circumstances.
  • Create a customer journey map: Plot out the customer’s journey through the multiple touchpoints of their buying process, and determine whether various support channels are needed to create a more seamless experience.       

Companies can look to Apple as an example. Its multichannel approach, including its in-store “Genius Bar,” ensures customers have the necessary support along every step of their journey, whether purchasing an item or troubleshooting online. 

Consider Business Outcomes When Determining Upskilling Priorities

Today’s consumers demand a high-quality experience, which entails consistency, convenience, empathy, and speed. One study reported that 71% of consumersOpens a new window say they expect a consistent experience across brand channels. What’s more, 42% of consumersOpens a new window would pay more for friendly brand interactions, and 53% say that unclear communication is the biggest issue preventing them from having a positive experience.

As teams continue to grow remotely and customers flock to new digital channels, companies need to find new ways to build employees’ customer-experience skills to keep pace. In fact, one study found that over 40% of companiesOpens a new window are increasing training courses and materials for employees since the start of COVID-19. Yet, too many fall into the trap of throwing budget at upskilling without a clear end goal—the same study found only 35%Opens a new window of companies have formal upskilling programs in place, with the majority delivering them on an ad-hoc basis.

Customer-facing functions looking to upskill should adopt an outcome-based approach, considering the overarching business objective they want to achieve, and then designing agile programs and strategies tailored to support those goals. When it comes to addressing ineffective communication, upskilling as a dedicated strategy may not even be necessary depending on available tools and resources.

Here are a few questions for CX leaders to ask themselves when evaluating the best approach:

  1. What business outcome do I want to achieve, and in what ways does communication support it?
  2. How and where are communications currently taking place with customers?
  3. What underlying drivers are impacting these communications? (Whether language barriers, employee churn, lack of bandwidth, or other challenges).
  4. What existing resources do I have to support these drivers, and which do I need to implement—while not disrupting workflow?

Learn More: Want to Own CX? Start With Customer Intelligence Data

Unlock Greater CX Productivity With the Right Tools

Equipping teams with the tools and technology to do their job successfully will increase overall business productivity, strengthen brand perception, and help solve some of the challenges created by dispersed teams. A recent reportOpens a new window found that better communication and collaboration can increase employee engagement and productivity by 20-25%. 

At the start of the pandemic, organizations deployed new communication tools like messaging apps and video conferencing software to quickly meet remote work challenges. Solving for one problem can inadvertently create another, and segmented communications platforms create more opportunities for ineffective communication. Leaning on technologies that can integrate across these platforms helps ensure consistency at scale. 

Faced with many options, organizations should focus on those technologies that make it easier for teams to communicate and collaborate efficiently and on-brand. A few examples include translation services like TransPerfect, digital brand style guides from Grammarly Business, and coaching platforms such as BetterUp. These types of tools help organizations ensure consistency and engagement across dispersed teams and ultimately facilitate better customer experiences. 

Most importantly, giving teams the right tools, especially for remote and multilingual employees, equips them to communicate more effectively and productively than ever before. When teams are highly engaged, they’re 38% more likelyOpens a new window to have above-average productivity. Without the ability to communicate efficiently, clearly, and consistently — including support for both multilingual and English-speaking workers — brands can’t provide the consistent customer experience today’s consumers expect.

Wrapping Up  

In 2021, ineffective communication within and outside of organizations will be a much higher financial and productivity cost to businesses than in prior years. It is table stakes to consider new ways of training dispersed teams on communication and brand best practices. This is a tremendous opportunity for leaders to embrace new approaches to delivering the right channels, skills, and tools to support their business outcomes, saving time and money while also creating superior customer experiences.

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