“There’s no consistency in what our people are saying to customers. It seems like everyone is just rolling their own.”
The tech-company executive who told me this was bemoaning a common problem: their blog posts, white papers, case studies, and other thought-leadership efforts weren’t landing in the most common customer interactions. He was weary from the disconnects (and griping) among the marketing, product development, sales, delivery, and service teams.
But it was the sheer volume of missed opportunities that was most frustrating. How many face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings, phone calls, call-center exchanges, networking opportunities, and emails occur across your organization every week? If they were more crisp, consistent, and relevant to buyers (or members, or donors, or whomever) what would be the impact on revenue, margins, customer satisfaction, or morale?
I do not believe that this common silo’ed reality is due to bad intentions, inept people, or boneheaded strategies. Rather, there are powerful forces that drive a wedge between customer-facing teams and effective conversations:
- Comfort—over time we often settle into saying the same things to the same people
- Consistency—different team members want to say and show things “their way”
- Complexity—people, especially experts, drown their messages in lingo and acronyms (when they should be able to convey complex ideas via a simple picture)
- Culture—many organizations lack the structure, resources, or habits for sharing wins and best practices
- Coaching—managers often lack the time or knowledge necessary to build conversational fluency within their teams
No one is immune and perfection is impossible. In a prior professional life as a chief marketing officer, our company was recognized as having a “best in the world” integrated marketing and PR program—yet it was still frustrating to carry those messages consistently, succinctly, and accurately through our sales teams and distributors.
These days I serve clients by helping them transform their real-time customer conversations, via Karrh and Associates as well as messaging engagements through DSG. Most client organizations, regardless of size or industry, have found it difficult to produce consistently good customer conversations on their own. So, how can you change things?
We engage an executive sponsor in the client company, establish a cross-functional team of A-players for whom customer conversations are important, and together develop a “playbook” with simple talking points, questions to ask, audience profiles, and other field-ready tools (including visuals) for leading a conversation. It’s important to focus on what real people will actually use. The result isn’t a tagline or logo that an ad agency produces to be distributed “out there,” but rather a guide to how everyone should prepare for and act during customer conversations.
That reality makes any effort to bring consistency to customer conversations both political and personal. It requires intense collaboration. But it pays dividends, often in less than a year–without a company having to change strategy, product features, pricing, or distribution.
Even better…because almost everyone in your organization is well equipped to carry the conversation a transformed customer conversation can be a unifying and rallying effort.