Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Communication breakdown

NOW that the weather has returned to just normal winter rather than the extremes, it is time to reflect on all the disruption. One lesson needs to be learned by major companies everywhere: the importance of communication.
Recalling the disruption to flights, car and train journeys and facilities supplies, the same message came from customers everywhere: why couldn’t we be told what was going on?
Whether it was passengers stranded at Gatwick, trains abandoned in Peterborough (and elsewhere), or the good people of Ulster unable to have water delivered, it wasn’t so much the interruption to normal service which upset people, it was the inability of the companies to keep a good stream of information flowing.
When heads eventually rolled, it was usually for the short-comings in informing customers, rather than for the interruptions themselves.
It is amazing that in the 21st century, business has still failed to grasp how important good communication is.
It’s not as if it is hard to prepare for these emergencies. Most firms have a business continuity plan, or disaster recovery plan, or whatever else they call it.
They just forget to build in a section to deal with telling customers what is going on.
All they need are lists of clients to hand; staff on standby to man a communication centre and a good supply of the latest information.
There may be issues over mobile phone reception, which is particularly important in real life-threatening circumstances, but these can be overcome with the right planning.
There may be issues about accurate weather forecasts, but an open and honest admission of when this is likely to be the case will overcome these.
In short, there is a lack of commitment to put resources into communication. It would be cheaper to prepare than face frustrated, angry and litigious customers after the event.

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