Do you remember the magic eye test?
I do, mostly because I never cracked it. The swan always remained hidden in a swirl of psychedelic colours and dots. And the more I stared, the less chance I had of seeing it.
The same can happen with the letters, emails and social media messages we read every day. The more we look, the less we see them the way our customers do.
On one level, this makes it easy to miss details, like typos. We auto correct anything that’s wrong without realising. In fact, familiarity is one of the most common reasons proofreaders don’t ‘see’ mistakes.
On another, perhaps more important level, we stop being able to feel what our customers feel. We become desensitised. We miss things like empathy (or a lack of it) because we’re detached from the emotion of the complaint, especially if we’re looking at a template rather than a real case.
Often, we’re not prompted to take a critical look at our customer communications until we have to, either because of a change in company policy or new industry regulations. This kind of reactive change can be little more than a tick box exercise – a quick change to the standard text and you’re done.
But if you want to make lasting improvements, the key is to take a broad view and look at everything from your templates, to how your teams use them, to the way they’re assessed.
Here are our five top tips for getting the most out of your review.
1. Speak to your team
Your advisors write to your customers every day, so before you look at the communications themselves, speak to your teams. Some will use it as a chance to let off steam. But they’ll also give you useful insights and suggestions. What’s more, if you capture things like their productivity and how confident they feel at this stage, you can measure the difference later on, after you’ve made changes.
2. Check your templates
It’s easy for your templates to get out of control, especially if your team can change or add to them at will. So first of all, ask someone who knows the subject matter to check the content’s right. Then ask one of your best writers to check the tone and rewrite any that need it. Also, make sure no one is using their own templates, rather than the shared ones.
3. Assess your quality assessment
We all know the mantra: quality assessment drives behaviour. So if your quality assessment only looks at content (e.g. have we answered all the points, are all the facts and figures correct), it’s only driving one type of behaviour – and it may even be encouraging bad habits when it comes to writing. If your scorecard doesn’t include anything – or enough – on tone, the assessment will be open to misinterpretation. So make sure your quality scorecards have specific criteria on how you expect your teams to write, not just what they write.
4. Find out how feedback works
Like quality assessment, the wrong kind of feedback can lead to the wrong kind of communications going out to your customers. So sit in on some one-to-ones to see how it works. Check to see whether the feedback your advisors are getting is consistent and balanced – for example, that it covers what’s working well as well as what needs to change. And find out whether the people giving feedback refer to a checklist to keep their comments focused, fair and objective.
5. Look at your training and support tools
What training have your teams had on writing? What do your advisors refer to if they’re not sure how to write something? If the answer is ‘nothing’ or ‘they just kind of know what’s right’, chances are that, even if some of the advisors’ writing is brilliant, as a whole the team’s communications will be inconsistent.
Need a second pair of eyes?
If you’re planning to review your customer communications but aren’t quite sure where to start, or you’d like a second opinion, get in touch – we’ll be happy to share our experience. And because we’re not looking at your letters, emails and tweets every day, we might be able to show you something you’re not seeing.