8 Best Practices of Internal Communications to Enhance External Communications
With all the devices, portals, and channels we use to send messages to each other, you would think we were living in the golden age of communication.
But we’re not, are we?
Despite the minicomputers we carry around and the instant access they provide, a lot of us are worse at communication, not better. Sure, there’s information and lots of it, but it’s often without perspective and context. When we need simple and immediate answers to questions, often they are answered with machine-created content that leaves us unsatisfied.
And the first response to a corporate communication need is often an email, which, no matter how well it is crafted, can never replace what is still the most powerful communication tool we have: the human voice.
I reviewed numerous articles, written in the last two years, all focused on reasons why clients leave a professional relationship (industries: financial professional, insurance professionals, real estate agents, CPAs, manufacturing sales, industrial sales, technology sales, corporate sales).
Of the top reasons clients leave, lack of/inadequate communication leads all the lists; more specifically:
- Failure to communicate enough
- Failure to respond in a timely manner
- Failure to understand needs
To look back at the days before the internet, it’s interesting to remember the one client communication that was always deftly managed: the monthly statement. Not only was the monthly statement the gauge of their success in building wealth and managing money for clients, it guaranteed interaction with a lot of them. Financial professionals made sure they were prepared to respond to clients who called after they received their statements seeking insight on the ups and downs of their investments.
Back then, advisors, financial planners and brokers had almost total control of that communication. Today, it’s flipped: clients don’t have to wait for results sent to them by their advisor. It’s all available online and in real time. The result of this immediate access to data is growing expectations among clients who have constant access to investing ideas, whether they’re valid or not.
Still, the lesson remains that consistency and open access are the keys to successful communication, as well as being prepared for the calls, texts and emails that still come in about a market drop or investing ideas. The same elements of an effective communications strategy hold true for communications with your own employees, a sometimes-neglected group who are essential players in creating an effective brand and maintaining positive client relationships.
What follows is a strategy to assess your communication philosophy.
First, start in the office: What is your workplace culture? What are the values you share? What is the culture of communication within your firm, those that you manage and those that manage you? How do you get information in the hands of your employees and how do they pass the relevant details on to clients?
Why these matter: To create an effective communication culture in your firm it is imperative to align all members of your team to a shared value, shared belief system and shared attitudes about communications with all members of your team and your clients. Communications with your team and your clients must be treated with the highest level of importance and priority, even if you do not know the answer to a question being asked or you are too busy to respond right away. By developing a strong culture of communication within your own company, you send the message of the importance of effective communications with clients.
Best practices for the every-day communication that can set the tone for your company:
Best Practices of External Communications:
- Always respond to emails, texts and calls in a timely manner and maintain a strategy to read and listen to all messages as they come in. As elemental as that sounds, it can be the biggest issue facing companies as we all struggle under the weight of messages from every device and channel.
- If you do not know the answer to the question being posed, let them know you received their request, you are looking into the question, and when you will respond.
- If you are too busy, reassign the task to someone else who can research the issue and reply quickly. Remember, “being busy” is not an excuse.
- Before you send anything out, read through your communications one last time to determine if you are conveying what you want in a clear, precise, and accurate manner. Sometimes, a final read-through reveals issues you might not have otherwise noticed.
- Have an extra set of eyes in your office available to proof your electronic communications before they go out for typos and grammatical and punctuation errors. Simple mistakes are interpreted several ways, none of them positive.
- As good as it is to talk to clients, a phone conversation or video conference isn’t enough. After your call, follow-up with an email that recaps the conversation, who’s responsible for what, and next steps for additional communication
- Regularly review your email messages and texts. Make sure to revisit unread communications to make sure you haven’t missed something.
- Keep working at understanding your audience and how they want to be communicated to. Then, use the way each client wants to receive information, understanding the limits each one has in delivering messages.
**BONUS** 7 Best Practices of Internal Communications:
- Consider internal communication to be more of a conversation than an announcement. Give your employees ways to respond and encourage them to voice opinions and offer new ideas.
- Communicate company successes and insights as opportunities to turn your employees into ambassadors for your company.
- Any important communication about your firm and your people that you plan to send externally should first go to everyone in your firm, so they know what’s happening before clients do. A Society for Human Resources Management Foundation (SHRM) study found that employees who are engaged and informed are less stressed at work and less likely to leave for an opportunity elsewhere.
- Develop talking points and key messages for any complex issue you believe your employees will be asked to respond to.
- Don’t stifle employees’ efforts at making things better even if you don’t think their ideas are valid for the firm. This is especially important as new communication channels and techniques develop and grow. Don’t immediately dismiss suggestions about new ideas as wrong or bad. Explain why an idea might not work but encourage employees to keep communicating with you and everyone on the team.
- Use internal communication to enhance that company culture, especially the unique stories of your employees and how they are helping your company succeed.
SHRM found that effective communication on all levels ultimately gives employees a voice in the workplace that builds morale, satisfaction and engagement, it can lead to great efficiencies, lower costs and greater employee commitment and loyalty, all characteristics the most successful organizations strive to encourage and embody.