Mind the Communications Gap

October 2, 2020

My husband and I, after 20 years of marriage and living in the same house for 19 of those years, decided to embark upon a home renovation. We have done cosmetic upgrades to our home over the years – paint, flooring, lighting fixtures – but nothing to the scope of what we are doing with this renovation. This renovation includes new foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing, heating, windows, a new roof, and new exterior doors. It quite the process to see each of the trades come in and do their work.

Not having gone through this process of hiring tradespeople before because we have essentially done the small work on our own, I noticed there is one big difference between the various tradespeople coming into our home. That difference is their ability to communicate – or the communications gap. It is a lesson I believe we all can learn from, and by communicating better, can grow our businesses, organizations, and personal relationships.

With building codes and building inspectors there is this bar that is set so that safety is factored into all of the work being done. Electricians must use wiring and outlets that are “up to code” otherwise the inspection will not pass. Gas fitters too must adhere to specific codes, or again, their work will not pass inspection and they will have to redo it. With all those codes and standards, let’s assume all of the trades are somewhat on equal footing because they need to reach a certain standard for their work.

The differentiator then, is communication.

Our team at Amplify helps with the reputational branding of companies, but it’s not just the logo or the look of a company – it is the experience someone feels because the staff lives by company values and communications are well defined and implemented. This is intentional work done behind the scenes which helps the customer to feel they are important, valued, and cared for. Here’s an example:

Scenario 1: Our tradesperson is good at their job. They show up, they do the work, and they go home. They don’t share what they’ve worked on or that they have another job they’ll be at and won’t be back for 2 days. They just don’t show up and then return to do the work a few days later.

Scenario 2: Our tradesperson is good at their job. They show up, they do the work, and they go home. They share what they’ve worked on and that they have another job they’ll be at and won’t be back for 2 days, but not to worry because gaps in the wall are filled and bugs won’t come in and everything is sealed tight in case it rains. They show up again after 2 days to continue their work.

In scenario one, my husband and I are out of the loop wondering what happened. We wonder if we need to seal the holes in the wall, and when they will return. We call, text, email to find out what’s happening to no response. In scenario two, my husband and I carry on with life, knowing the tradesperson will be back when they said.

This is the gap in communications, and to solve it would take a few minutes of intentional communication. Most people are okay if there is a delay in work, a package arriving late, a project being completed a day or two later than planned if they are communicated to.

When a package from a courier is late and you get a notification regarding the delay, you’re typically understanding

When there is a delay in the completion of a project, but you’re given the heads up and reasons why to your client, not a biggie.

But to be left in the dark can make you as a customer, colleague, or community member feel like you don’t matter. Most businesses would be shocked to find out that the biggest reason they do not receive referrals from former employees or customers is their lack of communication. It is so simple, yet so many people don’t know how to start.

Here are a few simple tactics to help.

  1. Create a standard: involve your team in creating a standard for communications asking what a reasonable turn around time is for getting back to an inquiry. This will depend on your industry and emergency requests. How many hours/days is acceptable to return a phone call, an email or online request? Set the standard and check back with your team every quarter to see if adjustments need to be made. Check with your customers too to ensure this is working for them.
  1. Share your standard: when customers know your communications standards, you manage their expectations. For example, when I call a company and I learn that a service representative will be back to me within 1 business day, my expectations are set, and they have 24 hours to respond. If I get an automatic email saying that due to increased customer requests, I should expect a response in 2 business days, I know where things are at.
  1. Put a bow on it: I like to refer to follow up as putting a bow on it – it’s like this gift that’s now completely wrapped up and done. In the case of a tradesperson, coming to the door and letting you know their part of the job is complete, thank you for the work, and mentioning the invoice will be coming is putting a bow on it. As a communications specialist, when we do a press event or release, we will send a summary of the work we did and provide links to the news stories generated to put a bow on the project. It is a way of signalling you did your job, you’re appreciative of the opportunity, and your part is now complete.

If you and your team can work on these simple communications tips

1) create a standard,

2) share your standard, and

3) put a bow on it

and then implement them into your organization, you will be filling the perilous communications gap, the downfall of so many in great businesses.