Longtime Chicago newspaper columnist Sydney J. Harris once said: “The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
There is no shortage of information that is collected in the XM Operating Framework and the Experience Management process. Data, whether experiential or operational, is plentiful and it is only enhanced by the Insights Discovery procedures previously discussed.
Insights, in fact, are only half the story. Organizations know far more about their customers than ever before. It’s picking out those actionable items – sometimes only two or three nuggets out of a treasure trove of information – and successfully communicating them to various audiences that will yield ultimate success.
How does one select the details to emphasize from an Insights Discovery report? Two questions to ask yourself:
- How does this relate to what we’re trying to achieve as a company?
- How actionable is it?
For example, sometimes insights do not align with business strategy. A company objective might be to ramp up sales. But one of the findings from a customer survey reveals a preference to focus on something other than renewals or adding new products or services. Use caution in determining whether this insight is actionable and, if so, how you tailor the message.
Additional factors to take into account in determining what to distribute:
- Resources available to act
- Timing (immediate action vs. long-term study)
- Your audiences and knowing how they might respond
It is essential to prepare different messages for different groups. Executives who may not be directly involved with implementation often require just an overview of insights and next steps.
Front line managers with direct responsibilities need a different, and often more precise, set of action items. Employees carrying out key programs should be sure to receive guidance on initiatives that are under their control.
Methods and Strategies
The communication of insights can take place in various formats. While some type(s) of cohesive presentation – a PowerPoint, pdf or other compilation – is typically needed, it is critical not to simply send out an email with the results. This approach lacks the context or reference that is almost always required. It deprives you of the ability to directly answer questions or provide additional details.
In-person or virtual meetings are highly desired, especially for those directly involved as managers or front-line employees. While recent years have shifted many of these interactions to the virtual world, there are still numerous opportunities for an interactive experience. Meeting platforms offer whiteboards and other tools that increase collaboration.
Another approach is to record a podcast in which insights are both distributed and explained. It’s an opportunity to complement a white paper overview and sprinkle in examples to emphasize key points. This can work especially well if the communication is more informative (no need for immediate action) or it is difficult to set up direct time with busy executives.
In addition to supporting documents, communication can take place in person as part of a regular or specially scheduled meeting. This can range from a lengthy discussion to potentially having to share a powerful message in as little as five minutes. Even during the course of a meeting, one can see their “budgeted” time of 30 minutes, for example, be cut in half or reduced even more as other agenda items run long.
Is it time to panic? Not if you have properly prepared and know your material as well as possible. What are some of the keys to doing just that?
- Constantly review the information
- Adjust based on questions that may have already come up in previous discussions
- Understand your audience
- Have a summary page for review after the meeting
Another “timing” question is how quickly information should be communicated following the discovery process. The answer depends, in part, on the topic and the focus. Urgency is diminished if the new insights are part of an ongoing relationship study. A hot topic that requires immediate steps may require action within days.
A typical rule of thumb, however, is to share results within a couple of weeks after they are obtained. If change is involved, word may begin to leak out, new initiatives start to be created or products designed without this helpful information or full employee awareness.
Stay Away From …
No matter the context of the information, the format of the communication or any additional factors, there are several crucial mistakes to avoid.
First, not having full knowledge of your materials. If you don’t possess that in-depth understanding, your audiences will know. If you are unable to communicate with confidence, recipients will poke holes in the findings and a lack of trust will prevail.
Second, waiting too long to share. The pace of business is moving faster than ever without any prospects of slowing down. One must keep up/strive to stay ahead or risk being left behind.
Third, not knowing everything there is to know about your business and its objectives. The goal should be to deliver insights that are relevant and speak to strategies that are already in place.
How It All Comes Together
How do all these factors combine in the real world? Here is an example from the banking industry at the onset of COVID in 2020.
In-person visits to bank branches began to decline prior to COVID before being forced to shut down completely. That forced a quick scramble to try to shift to drive-through experiences for those not comfortable with strictly online interactions.
A four-week pulse survey identified pain points for customers. Immediate steps were required to make operational changes. Distribution of findings to executives was quickly followed by communications with front-line management and employees. The customer experience professionals became part of regular calls with leaders and their teams.
Additional forums took place. The content remained the same, but different formats were utilized for various audiences. For a large organization, it was also critical to secure time with those directly focused on customer experience at diverse locations. These professionals already possessed the buy-in and can help effectively communicate the need for the rapid changes that may have been sometimes uncomfortable.
Those changes included allowing customers to set up drive-through appointments and using technology to assist them remotely while they remained in their homes. The results included customer satisfaction scores that continued to increase in a most challenging situation.
Why It’s So Important
Insights Distribution cannot happen in a vacuum. It requires a collaborative effort, especially internally. Asking questions of other business lines can help to fully understand the insights and effectively communicate them.
With business moving at such a fast pace, one of the casualties is often slowing down enough to explain why certain changes are taking place.
The Insights Distribution process can help connect the dots. It can reinforce to team members that yes, we’re asking you to do a lot, but here’s why and how it is best serving and meeting the needs of our customers.