Rosemary Plorin

Internal Communication: Don’t Let What Happened to Enron Happen to You

By Rosemary Plorin

An effective internal communications program is an integral component of any productive organization. Look at any top 10 business list and you are almost guaranteed to find companies with robust internal communications programs and strong corporate cultures.

Look further down those lists and you’ll find companies that fail to implement internal communications programs that fully tap into the benefits of a well-planned system.

Effective communications allow business leaders and company employees to share insights and knowledge in a two-way dialogue. Successful communication strategies encourage collaboration and teamwork, promote a company’s goals, provide education and motivate employees. They help reinforce the “true north” of a company’s strategic plan and provide an important feedback loop from the bottom of the organizational chart to the top.

Internal communications are particularly important during times of change or crisis. It’s imperative that organizations have an efficient, comprehensive and relevant communication program in place before a crisis occurs.

Social Business Meeting
Social Business Meeting

Internal Communications: The Building Block of Success

The Business Dictionary defines internal communication as “The sharing of information within an organization for business purposes.” It sounds simple but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Clear communication between departments, team members, managers, executives and employees is difficult enough when an organization is in one building. Add in factors such as field locations, mobile workforces and telecommuters and communication becomes even more complicated. Fortunately, there are new tools and tactics you can put into place now to connect with everyone, from the traveling sales rep to the off-site call center operator to the CEO.

Plan and strategize. If there is no internal communication plan in place, develop a strategy that meets the goals you want to achieve. If you already have a plan, look at what works and what doesn’t. Conduct an audit to identify how and when employees prefer to receive information and what they need to do their jobs well. Strengthen what’s working, identify barriers, define improvements. Work out a budget. Keep in mind that high employee turnover, low employee morale, misunderstandings and lost revenue are intrinsically connected to a lack of or poor internal communication.

Choose simple tools. Make communication easy. Implement an instant chat system, such as Slack or Yammer. Utilize cloud platforms like Google Drive to bring everyone in the company together, regardless of physical location. Use online project management tools and a single platform for email, documents, files and calendars. Employees won’t use communications tools if they’re complicated, redundant or time-consuming.

Provide a forum for employee feedback.  Provide a forum for team members to share ideas, supply feedback, brainstorm, discuss problems and voice suggestions. Bringing employees, managers and leaders together in a relaxed, comfortable forum, whether it’s a chat channel or cloud-based service, promotes camaraderie and innovation and shows you care about what they think.

Inform and inspire. Electronic newsletters can be an effective form of internal communication. but many organizations miss out on the opportunity to inspire and motivate in their newsletters. A newsletter is the ideal place for sharing motivational quotes or rewarding customer experiences, reminding everyone of the company’s goals and mission and offering praise. If used correctly, an electronic newsletter spurs actions and raises morale.

Measure the effectiveness of internal communications procedures. Determining the success or failure of an internal communication program won’t happen overnight. But, there are early indications to show where your newly implemented program is going. Indicators include changes in profits, sales and productivity, differences in staff retention rates and shifts in employee happiness and job fulfillment answers on surveys. Gauge your program’s effectiveness through regular, annual or biannual, surveys using your audit results as a benchmark.

Adapt. As you analyze the results and communicate with users, adapt your internal communications procedures to fit the needs of the organization and individuals. Be purposeful to ensure your communications tactics stay relevant and useful. But …

Avoid overload.  Information overload is a real threat to effective internal communications. Avoid overloading team members with too much information, too many emails or too frequent newsletters. Make sure your communications tools have clearly defined purposes and editorial calendars.  Resist the urge to layer in too much “feel good” info (work anniversaries, birthdays, recipes) that can water down the tool’s effectiveness. Be brief and to the point and always try to add-value to the employee’s work day.

A Cautionary Tale

A lack of internal communication is a recipe for disaster. The rise and fall of Enron, an American energy company, is a prime example of what can happen when internal communications fail. Clearly, many factors played roles in Enron’s demise, but an academic analysis conducted by Matthew W. Seeger of Wayne State University and Robert R. Ulmer of the University of Arkansas – Little Rock, placed much of the blame on poor internal communications.

According to the abstract, Enron management did not utilize “adequate communication to be informed of organizational operations.” Executives were able to hide the true state of the company’s finances, confuse shareholders and analysts with a convoluted business model and practice unethical accounting methods to misrepresent earnings because no one else in the company knew what they were doing.

We’re seeing a similar scenario play out in the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, in which several high-ranking officials appear to have been unaware of a crisis brewing in the city’s water system for almost two years.  Had the lines of communication been more open, more relevant, more accessible to employees on the local and state level, could the crisis have been averted?

Don’t let a lack of or poor internal communications be your Achilles’ heel. Isn’t it time you reviewed your organization’s internal communications program?

Try These New Approaches to Measure Customer Satisfaction

By Rosemary Plorin

Industry success, whether you’re operating in healthcare, professional services, not for profit, education, hospitality or any other sector, depends on the satisfaction of shareholders, customers, donors and regulators.

Effective branding, social media engagement, marketing and communications all point to one goal: to gain customers and keep them. Customer satisfaction is the key to attaining and keeping customers, but to get the most benefit, it must be accurately measured.

Here are some new approaches to measure your company’s customer satisfaction and tips for how to use what you learn to take the client experience to the next level.

How to Create Effective Customer Satisfaction Surveyscustomer satisfaction survey_ Rosemary Plorin

Online surveys can be useful tools in providing detailed, relevant and actionable information to gauge customer satisfaction, identify new product ideas or uncover barriers to sales and success. But in today’s world, online surveys are old hat. We’ve taken them a hundred times and feel like we know the next question before we hit enter. And most often, we’re eager to hit that button so we can complete the survey and move on to more pressing matters.

Survey fatigue is one of the biggest challenges to running a successful online research effort. Survey participation rates in 2015 fell to an estimated 2 percent. Saturation is certainly part of the problem, but time-strapped clients and short attention spans are also to blame. What can you do to encourage participation? Here are three formatting tips to encourage participation:

  • Offer incentives: Research indicates that offering free value-added content, a discount off purchases, cash rewards or other incentives can increase response rates 10 to 15 percent. Keep in mind that the more highly compensated the research target, the greater the value of the incentive.  CEO incentives (in the form of luxury items, gift cards or charitable donations) may need to be $250 or more to secure participation.
  • Make surveys suitable for mobile: It’s projected that in 2016 more than 50 percent of surveys will be conducted on mobile devices. Smaller screens mean videos are out, graphics, if used at all, should be small and the survey should not force users scroll too much. Avoid complicated tools, such as dropdown menus and matrices.
  • Format questions to encourage participation: Keep questions short and concise, ask no more than 20 questions per survey, begin with the most important questions and include open-ended questions to give the participant a chance to explain details.

Formatting the survey is only part of the equation, however. Before you begin developing questions, determine your target audience. Will you ask for feedback from existing clients, potential customers, sales leads or some other group? Keep in mind that one size rarely fits all. Once you’ve identified your target audience, think about the data you’d like to acquire.

Effective customer satisfaction surveys utilize multiple choice or ranking questions, asking the respondent to rate an experience (usually a single, recent event), if the product or service was of the quality expected, three or four specifics about the purchase and how likely the customer is to recommend the product or service to others.

The most important questions in the entire survey are open-ended questions about how the experience could have been better. Ask how the customer would improve the product or service: what one thing would they change about their recent experience and why? Questions like these give measurable indications about your company’s performance and actionable feedback, which is invaluable. The goal of a survey should never be to secure a pat on the back. You’ll learn more by listening to what you did wrong than what you did right.

The advantage of asking recent clients to respond to a survey immediately after a purchase or interaction is twofold: it helps demonstrate your genuine interest in understanding what customers think, and it gives customers who may have had a less than favorable experience the opportunity to voice a complaint in a timely, productive way. You have the opportunity to fix the problem, the client feels valued and, because they had a forum in which to voice their displeasure immediately, may refrain from posting a negative online review. It’s a win-win.

Surveys can be used to impact customer satisfaction in indirect ways as well. For example, creating an internal survey using Survey Gizmo that targets team members on the customer service front lines can bring valuable feedback about what is and is not working. A survey also gives team members a forum to suggest ways to make improvements.

Measuring Customer Satisfaction: Beyond Surveys

Although well-done surveys are an essential tool in every marketer’s toolbox, surveys shouldn’t be the only measure of customer satisfaction. Customer loyalty is a hard numbers measurement that provides valuable insight into client-based behavior. Compiled data can be utilized in a number of ways: improving sales and service, tracking promotions, enhancing human resources and refining marketing efforts. High levels of customer loyalty equals accelerated business growth.

Keep in mind that customer loyalty can be measured both in objective and subjective frameworks. Objective customer loyalty measurement, like the multiple choice survey questions discussed above, uses system-captured data to provide hard numbers about customer behavior. Historical records, purchase records, time spent on the company website,buying frequency and whether or not a customer purchased recently can expose problems and define patterns.

Subjective is a type of soft number measurement. Answers to open-ended survey questions, feedback from inbound service calls, customer recommendations, and online comments, engagement and reviews can be softer indicators of customer loyalty and satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).

Use a combination of subjective and objective methods to create a road map to take your customer satisfaction to the next level.

Beyond Profits: Today’s Tips for Measuring Your Company’s Success

By Rosemary Plorin

Measuring a company’s success is rarely a one-dimensional process. Bottom line numbers are still important, of course, but a company’s success in a global economy and a virtual world is no longer defined strictly on a numbers basis.

The changing demands of both shareholders and the public combined with the importance of social media means that business leaders must blaze new trails to achieve success and find alternative methods to assess results. PwC’s recent annual CEO survey found that CEOs are concerned with not only the traditional drivers of success, such as risk and innovation, but also the more emotional aspects that revolve around purpose and values. Clearly, respondents recognized that our rapidly changing business environment requires new measurement tools.

How to Measure Business Impacts on Society

Most companies publish financial reports. Increasingly, however, companies also report the company’s environmental impact, methods used to promote sustainability and an outline of ongoing environmental initiatives. Shareholder and public concerns about climate change, air and water pollution and rising sea levels have led to an increasing emphasis on a corporation’s impact on the earth and in the community.

Other new measurements of business success include a corporation’s participation in social investment, workforce diversity, improved working conditions and promotion of a high quality of life. Ethics is another area of greater importance as businesses become more transparent. CEOs who can focus on both financial and nonfinancial corporate performance facets improve shareholder value in the long term.

Social media measurement_ Rosemary Plorin

Taking the Measure of Social Media

Social media success — how can it be measured? Marketing professionals have long espoused that using social media can help build a loyal customer base.  The science and measurement of social media is bearing that out.  AdWeek reported last year that nearly 81 percent of consumers research online before buying. Three in five businesses gain new customers through social media. Another 57 percent of small business sales funnel through social media. But, how do you know if your own social media efforts are paying off?

If you already use social media or are getting ready to jump in, consider the following:

  • Who is your target audience? Social media provides an easy way to reach a targeted audience as long as you know who that audience is. What demographic is most likely to buy your product or service? You can target age groups, gender, residents of specific locations, those with defined careers, interests, educational levels and/or incomes. As has always been the norm for effective marketing, be specific about who you want to reach and choose the platform that delivers your core audience.
  • Which platform best meets your audience demographic requirements? Each social media platform reaches a different segment of society. For example, Facebook has the largest number of users with a demographic mix across the board, from virtually all age groups and income levels. Twitter on the other hand, has a user base that is predominantly 49 years of age or younger, with slightly more male users than female. The majority of Instagram users are under 29 years of age and females outnumber males. LinkedIn members are typically 30 to 64 years old, have a college degree and are split evenly between men and women. Pinterest users are overwhelmingly female with varied educational and income levels. Choose one or two platforms with your targeted audience and focus your efforts – and measurement – there.
  • What is your social media objective? Will you use social media primarily for customer service? Are you looking for user-generated content, such as testimonials and reviews? How often do you plan to publish content? Do you have a team in place to take on the responsibilities of monitoring and responding to social media posts? What are your goals? Create goals you can monitor, such as increasing the number of likes on Facebook and how many people visit your website from a social media post.

Measuring Content Distribution Success

Content is king, right? Right. But the challenge of measuring the success of a content management and distribution marketing campaign is that the usual measurement tool, Return on Investment (ROI), doesn’t work for digital content. ROI is based on a formula that demands initial investment provide a measurable return. Content distribution, along with most digital marketing segments, is focused on brand awareness and customer engagement, and not necessarily on transaction.

So while a well-managed content distribution campaign increases awareness, it may not directly provide a measurable financial return. A more accurate measure for content is the Return on Advertising Spending (ROAS) formula. The beauty of ROAS is that it analyzes the revenue generated from every marketing dollar spent and matches it to a specific channel (direct mail, social, outdoor, search. etc.). Though ROAS does not factor in how one channel impacts another, it facilitates an interesting (if siloed) analysis how marketing dollars are spent in a tactical sense and provides a helpful tool in measuring a company’s overall success.

How to Provide Old-Fashioned Customer Service in Our Digital World

By Rosemary Plorin

Henry Ford once said, “It’s not the employer who pays wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” Customers not only pay employee wages, but determine a company’s profitability. As phone trees and online commerce have virtually removed the human connection, it’s all the more important to find ways to make each relationship count.

Marketing and customer service departments have traditionally been separate entities with an organization. But that’s changing as company execs realize customer service is not the domain of a single department, but includes every single person in the company who interacts with customers. In today’s world when a customer service nightmare can go viral – and global – in a matter of minutes, you can’t use advertising memes like “customers are our priority,” unless they really are.

Happy Customers Mean Higher Profits

Customer service_ Rosemary PlorinA lot of work goes into finding new customers, but turning first time customers into loyal customers is even more important. Returning customers make more purchases, buy more frequently, are less expensive to serve and more profitable than new customers. Loyal customers almost always mean higher profits.

One of the most important influencers of whether or not customers return is the level of satisfaction they feel when they interact with company representatives, no matter what the reason. Those interactions with real people are the relationships that count.

Taking Customer Service to the Next Level

Great customer service is more than lip service. It’s a philosophy that starts at the top and is emphasized in every aspect of training and employee performance. Here are the core principles that comprise excellent customer care:

  • Empower Team Members: Team members, particularly those who take customer calls or are responsible for answering client emails, must be empowered with enough authority to not only work on behalf of the customer, but resolve the problem without passing it on to someone else.
  • Practice Empathy: Train responders to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. It’s easy to feel attacked by the words of an angry caller, but team members must learn to put emotion aside and hear what the customer is actually saying and feeling. Staying calm, reviewing facts and exhibiting sympathy and understanding are key to defusing a situation and building rapport.
  • Apologize When Necessary: Humans make mistakes. Orders arrive late or are shipped to the wrong place. A simple “I’m sorry” goes a long way toward building trust between the company and the customer or client.
  • Fix the Problem, Add a Perk: Remedy the situation as soon as possible. Adding a perk, perhaps a percent off coupon for later use or providing a free item, is a proven method of service recovery and building loyalty after something goes wrong.

When They Don’t Call: Building Customer Loyalty Through Social Media

Of course, not every customer or client will call you. How can you build a connection without actually speaking to a customer?  That’s where social media comes in. Used correctly, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites put the “personal” back into doing business. If you don’t do it right, however, you can make frustrated customers more angry.

Customer are increasingly more likely to contact a business through a Facebook page than call on the phone. Facebook is a great way to build customer loyalty, engage current customers and find new clients. But if you leave the customer hanging, without acknowledgement or reply, you’ll pay for it in a public way.

A recent study found that customers expect companies to respond to a tweet in less than an hour. If they don’t, 38 percent experience negative feelings toward the organization and 60 percent of those will voice their displeasure online for the world to see.

On the other hand, when companies actively and quickly respond, 34 percent make purchases, 43 percent promote the company to family and friends and 42 percent use social media to recommend the organization. Social media is the word-of-mouth of the digital age. It can’t be placed left to chance.

To take full advantage of social media, assign a well-trained customer service team to respond to customer posts. Unless your team is on 24-hours a day, specify times staff is available to respond. Train team members to use the opportunity to build long-lasting customer loyalty. Make it personal: use names when provided; comment on specifics; fix problems. Issues resolved through social media are out there for everyone to see (whether it’s on one of your own social media assets or someone else’s). Make sure your team creates positive experiences.

Traditional or virtual, customer interaction is always personal. Be sure to make superb customer service the core of your marketing strategy.

How’s Your EQ? Here’s How to Give Yours a Boost

By Rosemary Plorin

Emotional Intelligence. The term has been bandied about since Daniel Goleman published his groundbreaking book of the same name in 1995. Goleman’s work was based on research of the leadership and workplace environment of nearly 200 global organizations. Emotional intelligence quickly became a hot topic, with the Harvard Business Review calling it “a revolutionary, paradigm-shattering idea.”

Still, more emphasis was placed on academic achievement and “smarts” than emotions. It’s difficult to change years of tradition. That trend is evolving, however. Why? Because study after study has supported Goleman’s findings. In fact, emotional intelligence, also referred to as emotional quotient, or EQ, is just as important if not more important than IQ in the workplace.

What is EQ?

A person’s emotional quotient is considered to be the sum of three parts. The first is your ability to be aware of and manage your own emotions. The second is your ability to be aware of and understand another person’s emotions. The third is your ability to relate to others in a personal, professional and effective way. Emotional quotient_ Rosemary Plorin

In other words, you know how you feel, you perceive how others feel and you have the ability to work efficiently with others based on that knowledge. Think about it — a team with highly intelligent members that compete, snipe and argue with each other is dysfunctional.

A team with members who work well together, understand each other, support one another and get along is much more productive. Developing a workplace atmosphere with a high EQ can mean the difference between average and excellent performance.

The Signs of Low EQ

What happens when you have leaders and employees with low EQs? Here are some of the signs there may be a problem:

  • -Individuals blame others.
  • -People shift or shirk responsibility. “He didn’t get the information to me in time.”
  • -Differing opinions are not valued or encouraged.
  • -People work in silos and lack a shared commitment to “get things done.”
  • -Aggressive, passive or nonexistent communication patterns are the norm.
  • -Leaders and managers lose touch with those they lead.

Improving Your Own Workplace EQ

Is there a way to increase EQ and create a more productive workplace? The answer begins with you. Some people are born with a high EQ but others have to work on one or more aspect. Here are five suggestions to help you improve your EQ.

Improve your self-awareness. Work hard to understand what drives you, what upsets you, what your weaknesses are and define your strengths. True self-awareness is a realistic view of who you are and how you react. Recognize your feelings throughout the day and think about how they impact your interactions with clients, colleagues and co-workers. Learn to regulate your emotions and avoid sarcasm and knee-jerk reactions.

Accept the fact you will experience disappointment and frustration at work. Don’t let feelings of failure take over; learn to think optimistically. Some people are born optimists, others have to work at it. If you don’t feel it at first, fake it. Optimism becomes second nature over time.

Increase your capacity for empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their feelings and viewpoints. It doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with the way they feel, but you understand where they are coming from. Empathy is crucial in conflict situations. It requires listening to the other person’s viewpoint, validating their feelings and valuing their opinions. Empathetic communication is respectful and comprehensive, even if you don’t agree with the other person’s conclusions.

Actively listen. Challenge yourself to say less and listen more in your next meeting. If you find it frustrating to hold your tongue, you may need to work on your listening skills. Be sure to maintain eye contact while listening and be responsive with your gestures or expressions.  Ask questions to clarify and confirm what you are hearing and show appreciation for the other person’s perspective. Listening actively to others helps boost your EQ as it requires you to understand both your own feelings as well as those with whom your are speaking.

Understand people’s differences. Improving your capacity for empathy and actively listening both require refining your social skills to better manage work relationships. Realize that people have different personalities and come from diverse cultures. And sometimes, people just have a bad day. There is no one correct method to communicate with all people all the time. Interact with people based on their individual personalities and the relevant issues at hand.

Decision makers increasingly see a high EQ as an asset when looking for new talent. Leaders, managers and team members with emotional intelligence are more committed, happier, engaged and productive. A high EQ doesn’t mean that intelligence and education are less important, it simply means that effective communication involves both the brain and the heart.

Scroll To Top