How To Use Internal and External Communications To Improve Business Performance

Published on:

February 25, 2021

How to use internal and external business communications to improve business performance

Use your business communications to improve business performance

Good business communications can positively influence business performance and productivity. Staff and customers feature prominently in most company vision and values statements. Improving customers’ experiences is usually an all-consuming obsession for sales and marketing teams.

The employee experience is becoming an equally important priority for HR departments – after all, businesses regularly assert the mantra “staff are our most important asset”.

How you communicate with both your staff and customers is an important way of showing you understand and respect them.

You should think about communicating simultaneously with both audiences as part of a concerted effort to grow your business. In a way, they are two sides of the same coin. Timothy R Clark, CEO of LeaderFactor, hits the nail on the head: “Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.”

Think of each piece of communication that you publish as a golden opportunity to build better experiences for these two audiences. The channels you use to communicate are relatively easy to set up. Newsletters, magazines, blogs, emails and apps, to name a few. What you put in them is often trickier to get right. The most impactful internal and external communications are down to good storytelling.

Clear the roadblocks to effective communications

There are likely to be roadblocks on the route to smoothly achieving your internal and external communications goals. Here are some of the hurdles that small businesses, medium-sized businesses and enterprises are likely to face – together with ideas on how to overcome them.

Let’s start with staff communications.

Senior management should support but not dominate internal communications

Challenge

Internal communications need buy-in and support from the top. This adds credibility to the content and should provide stronger momentum for your communications.

However, it can create two challenges. First, senior management may lack the time – or inclination – to focus on internal communications. Data from Gallup shows that only 13% of employees strongly agree that leaders communicate effectively with the rest of the organisation.

Second, there is the risk of managers dominating the platform. You don’t want employees seeing ‘their’ company newsletter as just another management mouthpiece. Fostering honest and open internal communications is one of the key leadership skills of the 21st century.

Ideas

• Good leaders listen. They can demonstrate this by balancing the content of their internal communications, so it isn’t top-heavy with corporate messaging

• Whenever you share important company messages do it in a palatable way that staff will find easy to digest

• Report honestly on setbacks, as well as progress, to build trust in what you are saying

• Respond quickly to negative situations with real examples of what you are doing to turn things around

Improve productivity with two-way internal communications

Challenge

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that a quarter of employees said they rarely or never have the opportunity to raise ideas or concerns to improve how their business functions. A quarter reported that they often choose not to speak up, even though they have something they’d like to say. If you get staff on your side then they’re likely to want to work harder for you.

Ideas

• Use your internal communications to encourage people to share their views – both positive and negative. Then make sure you follow up, and report on, the actions you plan for remedying unsatisfactory situations

• If staff are more involved in the process they should feel ownership of internal communications, such as a newsletter, so it becomes a trusted channel for giving information

• Feature plenty of comments and quotes from staff in your news – that’s usually who colleagues most want to read about

• Think about having a staff representative attend planning meetings for key internal communications projects, where they can represent their colleagues’ views while discussing content suggestions

Align employee with company goals

Challenge

Deloitte noted that only 23% of executives in its survey said their companies were excellent at aligning employees’ goals with corporate purposes. The firm noted that over half (59%) of those surveyed said they were not ready or only somewhat ready to address the employee experience challenge.

Company goals should be shared openly and reinforced regularly, not left on a shelf collecting dust, because they are essential to creating a healthy company culture. If you keep them out in the open and review them regularly then you are more likely to be able to align corporate ambitions with employees’ goals.

Having staff on your side makes sustained business growth more achievable. As former Fortune 500 CEO and business leader Douglas R Conant points out: “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”

Ideas

• Use your internal communications to encourage and demonstrate greater workplace collaboration, so everyone feels part of the same team, pursuing common goals

• Share important messages around wellbeing, health & safety and the work/life balance

• Share recruitment information and job role profiles, so staff can see where their next career steps might be and you can reduce employee churn

• Include corporate social responsibility (CSR) information in your communications – these issues are front-of-mind for many people

• Feature personal stories from staff about life beyond work that help to reflect the human side of your business

Highlight reward and recognition

Challenge

Reward and recognition schemes are a great way to boost employee wellbeing and loyalty. But a Perkbox survey found only 4% of employees said they currently have the right perks for them. Encouragingly, Perkbox also reported that 42% of staff said they’d be happier in 2021 if they received greater recognition for their work.

You often hear companies bemoan the fact that staff don’t take advantage of the range of attractive incentives and benefits available to them. On the flip side, staff sometimes complain their employers fail to give them much in the way of perks but aren’t aware of what’s on offer. This situation highlights the damaging impact of an avoidable internal communications breakdown.

Ideas

• Celebrate staff successes and achievements with stories that give them the recognition they deserve and which inspire colleagues to aim equally high in their efforts

• Keep details about your benefits and rewards programmes up to date, so everyone knows the latest news and how they can participate

• Encourage greater innovation in the workplace by showcasing staff suggestions about better ways of working

• Motivate staff with positive news, so they feel more loyal and happier to be more productive

Now, let’s look at customer communications.

Improve the customer experience

Challenge

Over two-thirds of marketing people who are responsible for managing the customer experience in companies told Gartner that their companies compete mostly or completely based on those experiences.

Getting the customer experience right is essential so your productivity isn’t compromised by constantly having to sort out poor experiences. If you get it right, then you should be on a roll – Gladly observed that 68% of people were happy to pay more for products and services if they knew the company offered good customer service experiences.

Ideas

• Use external communications to make customers feel appreciated and part of a community based around your brand

• Use external communications to improve your understanding of what customers want, so you can increase your performance by improving customer experiences

• See life from the customer’s point of view, not yours. Share information, such as advice and case studies, that are relevant to their world

• Speak the same language as your customers – straight-talking and jargon-free – so they are more likely to respond positively

Personalise your relationships

Challenge

According to Accenture, only 22% of global customers said that the companies with which they do business tailor their experiences based on a deep understanding of their needs, preferences and past interactions. CEOs appear to be taking steps to address this, with 73% of them recognising the need for products, services and experiences that are more meaningful to their customers. Accenture says we are now in the ‘hyper-relevance’ era.

A lot of success in improving customer experiences comes down to how well you personalise your communication. The Gladly survey found that 59% of people said that they preferred personalisation over speed in customer service.

Ideas

• Share positive stories about customer experiences that strengthen trust in your brand

• Share important news about your business and products in a timely way that inspires confidence in your brand and generates additional interest in your business

• Use external communications to highlight special offers tailored to your audience

• Bring more customers back through positive, personalised messaging

Listen and learn from customer feedback

Challenge

The service that customers receive is important in terms of how loyal they are, said 96% of respondents to a Microsoft survey. What’s more, some 77% of customers view brands more favourably if they ask for and accept customer feedback. While 68% of them view brands more favourably if they act proactively in their relationships.

Ideas

• Use your external communications as a platform to receive and share customer feedback that helps you understand what they think about you, so you can continually improve what you offer them

• Show compassion and a deep understanding of customers’ challenges – plus a readiness to help tackle them

• Delivering content that engages its audience should encourage customers to continue interacting with you

• Demonstrate that your business is the expert in its market by encouraging debate and discussion around topics that highlight your leadership

Turn customers into brand ambassadors

Challenge

A report by Bond shows that 70% of customers are more likely to recommend brands that offer good loyalty programmes. It said loyalty programmes that establish ‘positive emotional connections’ with members can lead to 27% of the membership increasing how much they spend with the brand.

The ability to increase revenue from loyal customers is confirmed by Bain, who noted that companies that excel at the customer experience grow revenues 4-8% above their market. Better experiences increase loyalty and turn customers into promoters of your brand, with a lifetime value 6-14 times that of detractors, according to Bain.

Customers who are switched-on to your brand can have a positive impact on your profitability. Constellation Research estimated that companies that improve engagement can increase cross-sell revenue by 22%.

Ideas

• Engage customers more fully with useful information about your products and services, so they get more from them

• Use your external communications to educate and inform customers about your whole business – beyond the transactional side that first brought them to you

• Improving customer loyalty saves money – it costs businesses far more to find new customers than to retain existing ones

Summary

Timely, informative, conversational internal communications help keep everyone in the picture and enable two-way conversations, so you can understand the challenges your people face and respond more quickly to resolve their issues. Lively, insightful external communications reinforce your business values, help you learn more about your customers and put a human face on your businesses.

Creating effective business communications comes down to the words you use. What to say, how to say it and when to say it. It’s not always easy articulating the things that make your business a brilliant place to work or one that treats its customers like royalty.

Our Business Communications Service helps businesses enrich their internal and external communications, so they can improve their performance and profitability.

About Paul Freudenberg

Paul Freudenberg is a business productivity coach and consultant with a focus on operational excellence delivering improved profitability and business performance, and Founder of Awardaroo in 2005. Paul has set the mission of Awardaroo to help raise UK Business Productivity from one of the lowest in the G7 to one of the highest by 2030. Connect on LinkedIn

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