Last week I ventured into one of my favourite restaurants on a relatively quiet Sunday night. As our table of six was being seated I mentioned that we would be joined by another group of five friends. The second group would arrive after main course to join us for dessert. I also flagged that there would be a total of five children, most of them unruly.
The news of the second group joining us was received very positively, most likely because between our two groups we would be doubling the number of patrons they had that night.
It was agreed that we would be seated towards the rear of the restaurant where there was another large table that could easily be turned into an extended table or simply a second ‘kids’ table. Being right at the back of the restaurant five kids wrestling over iPads and iPods would not disturb the other restaurant diners and us the parents could relax.
At this point in the evening I was on my way to being ‘delighted’ (good company, good food and a separate table for the kids).
However, soon after we were seated and settled another staff member ushered in and seated another group of diners on the aforementioned ‘kids’ table. Amongst all of the empty tables available that night the second staff member had chosen the table right next to us to seat this next group. This happened so quickly that by the time I realised our ‘kids’ table had been lost the new group were well settled and it was not fair to disrupt them. The fact that this new group included a fairly prominent Adelaide politician also made the staff reluctant to relocate them.
Obviously, poor internal communication had taken place. The second staff member was clearly unaware of the verbal agreement to reserve the table in question for our second group of friends.
For us the customer, this resulted in a level of inconvenience, a little stress and a prominent Adelaide politician being given the opportunity to interact with our combined group of five kids (he was great with them).
Poor Internal Communication
This scenario prompted me to reflect on how frequently there seems to be a disconnect between external ‘marketing and sales’ communication and actual delivery.
It seems common for brands to make claims in their external marketing and sales communications that seem to conflict with the words and actions of their staff.
In thinking this through I thought that this ‘disconnect’ could be caused by a variety of factors:
- Blatant over promising on the part of the brand or business and/or its sales staff
- Poorly trained, briefed, motivated or even malicious staff
- Misunderstanding, unreasonableness and/or naivety on the part of the customer
- Simply poor internal communication between one communication point within the business and another
I am sure that within any given day many brands and businesses are guilty of delivering on all four of the above. However, I suspect the real cause is more of a communication issue.
A weakness that I find afflicts numerous well intentioned business operators is that of simple poor internal communication.
Causes of Poor Internal Communication
There are numerous causes of poor internal communication. Some of the common factors that I witness when consulting to individual business operators include the following:
- Geographic and logistical issues impacting on communication
- Differences in individual staff members’ personality types
- Relationships between individuals within a business
- Relationships and power bases between departments within a business
- Overall business culture
- Effectiveness of business and communications systems within a business
- Numerous other factors that impact on internal communication within a business
The above list is not intended to be exhaustive. This list merely represents the most common causes of poor internal communication that I witness as a consultant providing advice to business operators.
Business and Communication Systems
It is point six above (Business and Communication Systems) that I feel holds the key to improving internal communication within businesses.
Business systems strike at the root cause of poor internal communication and to start fixing issues at other points further downstream risks taking a Band-Aid approach.
Where to Start?
Business systems represent an entire area of their own and as a Marketing Specialist I do not claim to have the silver bullet in this area.
However, I have listed the following questions for you to consider:
- Does your business or team have a common vision and goals?
- Does your business use a common set of terminology or language when communicating internally or with customers?
- Does your business rely on a common set of processes, procedures or systems when delivering products or services for your customers?
- Does your business have a well-defined product and service range and are your staff appropriately trained to understand this offering?
- Does your business have a completed Marketing Plan and common approach and commitment towards continuous growth and improvement?
If you answered ‘YES’ to all of the above then I have no idea why your business would be experiencing poor internal communication.
However, if there were some gaps or even an outright ‘NO’ to any of the above, then perhaps there is scope for you consider the above questions in more depth.