Recently, my bank made me cry. Not because of a tear-jerking, feel-good TV ad. Not because I logged into my account and found it had been frozen. No – I ended up crying hot tears of desperation after spending two exhausting hours on the phone to the ‘dedicated business team’. My problem? I wanted to find out how I could get some missing account statements. But I never did find out, as I was cut off after two hours, having been passed from pillar to post and given conflicting information by every person I spoke to.
What does this have to do with sustainable business and communication? Quite a lot, as it happens.
Some of the staff I spoke to during my two-hour frustration fest knew less about the bank’s products and services than I did – and all I’d done was look at the bank’s website. They also contradicted each other regarding policies and procedures, so the bank clearly doesn’t invest much in staff training or quality control. Dealing with frustrated callers all day long isn’t an easy job, and it’s a shame that the staff aren’t getting the support they need.
A few minutes into my call I realised there was a communication problem, too. The staff were non-native speakers of English who spoke very quickly and used internal jargon. I couldn’t understand everything they were saying, and some of them didn’t seem to understand me, either. I’m not suggesting that the bank should only hire native English speakers for these posts (I know plenty of non-native speakers who speak fantastic English), but surely it’s in the bank’s interest to hire staff who can communicate effectively with customers.
For a company to be sustainable, it’s not enough to reduce paper consumption, offset CO2 emissions or ban polystyrene cups in the canteen. Keeping your staff and customers happy is also an important element of sustainability (as well as being crucial for the business’s survival, obviously).
In an age in which most businesses don’t communicate with their customers face to face anymore, clear and effective communication has never been so important. This can mean having your company’s website texts written by a copywriter who lives in the target country, or having your social media campaigns translated by a professional translator instead of a friend of a friend who spent a couple of months in the US a few years ago. If you’re on a budget, you could at least hire a professional to read the English section of your website and check that there are no glaring errors.
Remember: if it looks as though you’ve skimped on communication, potential customers will wonder where else you’ve cut corners.
Oh, and just for the record: I only received my bank statements after I complained publicly on the bank’s Facebook page and a UK-based advisor got in touch to help me. That’s always an option, but I’m guessing most businesses would prefer to resolve their customers’ problems before things get that far.
Any questions? Contact me.
© 2017, Eleanor Toal