Why it’s Hard to Connect the Conversation

Most organizations aren’t that good at real-time customer conversations. You’ve likely experienced this as a consumer yourself, or you might have seen symptoms of message issues in your organization or in a client’s company.. 4podlulz

It’s difficult to present a coordinated and relevant series of messaging across all channels; a number of psychological and organizational forces get in the way. Here are five that separate organizations from good customer messaging:

Companies (and people) go for comfort.

Salespeople tend to call on the same people and say the same things. At networking events, teams from the same company will gather by the shrimp cocktail to talk office politics among themselves rather than engage strangers. Yet prospective buyers, members, donors, or voters would actually like to see and hear something they didn’t already know.

Individual autonomy and improvisation breed group inconsistency. 

Many of a typical company’s top messengers also have their own way of doing things. These “cowboys” (or cowgirls) value their autonomy, want to be agile in the moment, and will dig in their heels if some marketing leader tries to script or program them. As an example, “the” customer presentation deck might have a half-life of a few weeks until there are numerous versions being used out in the field.

Complexity swallows simplicity.

Our worlds are increasingly complex, full of fast-changing technology and many options. In the face of that complexity, many potential customers will simply shut down. Messages hit the mark when they can make the complex much more simple and conversational—typically through pictures or stories. Most customer-facing associates don’t know how to do that. 

The culture gets in the way.

With our changing work patterns, people are increasingly spread out across places, teams, offices, homes, and virtual settings. That reality doesn’t lend itself to a culture of message innovation, idea sharing, or peer support.

People and teams need coaching.

Managers tend to do their managing around processes, policies, and forecasts; few are skilled in the specifics of building better customer conversations. Training resources are often thin and/or shrinking, which doesn’t help matters.

In my practice I’ve found the playbook approach helpful in reclaiming customer conversations from these powerful forces. A playbook can, for example, serve as the source for insightful thinking that gets people out of their comfort zones. It can be the proverbial hymnal with common examples, stories, and experiences that get everyone singing in better harmony. Its very format should encourage simpler ways of conveying an organization’s value and raison d’être. 

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