Just like the private sector, government agencies frequently encounter new rules, regulations, policies, and financial realities that impact the way we do business. Of course, change is never easy—and when customers feel the ripple effects of those changes, their satisfaction with an agency can waver. That’s why, during times of change, customer experience leaders should reach for a fundamental, yet frequently overlooked tool in their toolbox: communication. Here are three essential to-dos that should be at the center of your communication plan.
- Start internally. Communicate early and often with staff so they’re equipped with everything they’ll need to have effective conversations with customers. If employees are confused, disgruntled, or feel “in the dark,” why would customers feel any differently? Hold cross-functional meetings and conference calls. Issue emails. Post announcements on your agency’s intranet page. Start discussion threads through internal social channels. Present information at internal all-hands meetings. Document frequently asked questions (FAQs) and make sure staff can access the FAQs quickly.
- Build a communication bridge. Once your staff understands how the organization’s changes will impact customers, don’t just assume that they will pass that information along. Absent clarity over roles and responsibilities, staff might hesitate to bring vital information to your customers’ attention. They could be worried that they’re in another person’s lane, that they aren’t allowed to say certain words or phrases, or that another person is responsible for communicating an important point to the customer. The timing, nature, and frequency of staff communications to customers should not be a matter of ambiguity in-house—your team should feel fully empowered and fully informed so that they can get the message out clearly. Check with staff periodically to see if they have all of the information they need to talk with customers about changes.
- Check your external communication points. Customers should have access to clear, consistent information about change, regardless of how and where they engage with the organization. Think about website content, mobile access, email, onsite elevator flyers, hallway posters, and social media channels. Communicate thoroughly, consistently, and frequently across all self-service channels to ensure the right information is available to all.
Communication is fundamental to customer experience, yet it is often taken for granted and undervalued. However, when change impacts customers, the execution of a thoughtful, thorough communication plan can be the most effective tool in maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.
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