Want to Improve CX Significantly? Look at Your  Frontline Communication!

Intuitively, we recognize the pivotal role of communication in delivering a memorable customer experience. If you reflect on your own positive experiences, many of them likely arose from the effectiveness of communication. In this blog, you will learn how enhancing your communication strategies will improve your CX significantly.

Our survey database has well over one million completed B2B customer surveys from customers in material handling, construction equipment, bus and truck, and various other industrial markets. In revisiting our interview history we discovered key metrics. This analysis covers 600,000 surveys from 2008 in one vertical market. Here’s what we learned:

NPS and Overall Satisfaction Correlation

We correlated the NPS® (Net Promoter Score) and Overall Satisfaction (1-10 scale). The correlation between these two metrics, with no lag in the periods, showed only a limited correlation (.44). However, as we lagged the correlation by quarters, we noticed interesting changes. See results below:

Want to Improve CX Significantly? Enhance Your Communication Strategies! NPS and Overall Satisfaction Correlation

The correlation increases between Overall Satisfaction and NPS as the lag time increases. This connection indicates that low satisfaction will likely result in lower NPS performance in the future. This statistical result is consistent with my observations of customer behavior. Creating a less loyal customer takes several less-than-satisfactory experiences and some time. Conversely, creating a Promoter customer takes numerous positive experiences over time.

Dealer Communication scores and NPS and Overall Satisfaction

To dig in further, we correlated Dealer Communication scores with NPS and Overall Satisfaction.  The communication question is a powerful driver of CX performance. we found some interesting things.

Communication, Overall Satisfaction, and NPS

Communication scores strongly correlate with NPS and Overall Satisfaction. Correlating NPS and Communication shows the following results:

Want to Improve CX Significantly? Enhance Your Communication Strategies! Communication, Overall Satisfaction, and NPS

The impact of poor (or excellent) communication occurs immediately, not later, as is the case for Overall Satisfaction and NPS. The correlation is powerful. There is a similar but more striking result for Communication and Overall Satisfaction. The correlation between the two metrics with no lag is .80. If I lag the two metrics by four quarters, the correlation drops to .58.

The results are instructive. Overall Satisfaction, NPS, and Dealer Communication are strongly correlated. The key takeaway is the immediate impact that good (or bad) communication can have on the other two metrics. These results highlight the importance of getting the communication right.

What Does Effective Communication Do for CX?

Effective communication has several positive impacts on customer experience:

Good communication is one of the most effective ways to build your brand. Think about how you value a brand when the communication during an order is clear or when the product or technician arrives when expected. Effective communication helps build trust, which is a powerful contributor to brand power.

Customer disputes will happen, but good communication makes handling them easier. That is a fact of life, no matter how well-run the company. However, effective communication helps alleviate these problems. Let me illustrate with a story. When I started my career, I was a district sales representative for a large agricultural chemical company. A farmer filed a complaint about the product not working as promised. I had just completed a training course on handling disputes and put my new skills to work. I met the farmer, who was quite angry.

After the venting phase, we discussed a plan to address his concerns. After we finished the testing and I shared the results with the farmer, he felt better. The company also provided a discount on additional products. I later found out that he had returned to the local supplier and purchased more, and he expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the dispute.

It helps address the “where’s my stuff” question. When customers order a product or service, knowing when to expect them is essential—the more consistent the delivery, the better. I worked on a project for a trucking company years ago. They wanted to understand why more customers were not using a faster service between two high-volume traffic lanes. I interviewed some customers and discovered two essential things. First, customers were more interested in consistency than speed. The trucking company was providing a three-day delivery service between two major cities. Customers said they were less interested in quick delivery and more interested in consistency of delivery. So most were happy with the five-day service as it was much more consistent than the three-day service offered by my trucking company client. Second, compounding customer frustration was the lack of communication about shipment status (this was before much online information was available).

What Are the Elements to Create Effective Communication in CX?

Software is only part of the solution. Managers sometimes think software alone will improve CX significantly and reduce poor communication. Software can help, but there are other answers. A recent personal experience highlights this point. The company that installed the HVAC system in our new home ran into some problems. Several trips were required to get them fixed. Each time a technician came out, I received a text message before the scheduled appointment with the ETA of the tech’s arrival and a picture of the text. They made three visits, and I received a notification for each one. There were three different techs, and I had a great experience with two but less practical experience with the third. The difference was the communication effectiveness of the three. Two were excellent at explaining the problems that needed correcting. The third was technically sound but unable to explain things well to me.

Developing communication skills is critical, especially for frontline workers. I return to the earlier story about the upset farmer. I had completed communications training just a few weeks before encountering the farmer. Reflecting on it, I was better able to handle the situation than had I not had the training. The training helped me to break down the interaction and better understand what I needed to do at each step. More than anything, it gave me greater confidence. Communication training is especially required for frontline workers. Many of these workers are in their jobs usually because they are good at technical things. Becoming a better communicator is something outside their background. Yet, it is becoming ever more important. Don’t overlook this critical need.

Recognize effective communication when it happens. Years ago, we developed a Good Jobs notification within our online system. During the phone interview, our client received an email if a customer mentioned an individual or a group doing something exceptionally well. The customer must initiate the feedback. Over the years, many, perhaps most, of the Good Jobs resulted from something to do with communication. Many of our clients began using this feedback to recognize those mentioned and to share it with others, which was a subtle teaching tool and can improve CX significantly. These workers welcome this kind of feedback. They are proud to share with others and equally proud that the feedback came from a customer.

Communication, Communication, Communication

An aphorism long used in the real estate industry is that when choosing a property, it is location, location, location. Something similar is true for customer experience. Improving CX significantly is a required building block for any successful CX program. As you think about how well your employees communicate with customers, think about how well they communicate with each other. How you communicate internally is an excellent indicator of how well you communicate externally.





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