A clueless announcement from southern railway sends every customer north.

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Southern are sorry to announce a thirteen minutes delay to London Bridge, due to an unidentified reason currently under investigation.’

Passengers were left bemused and laughed in disgust when the above announcement went on at the train station. Forrester carried out a study earlier this year titled: ‘Forester’s Top 15 Trends for customer service in 2013.’ Trend number four in this study was: ‘Customers expect proactive outbound communication.’ It further stated that, Forester’s Forrsights Networks and Telecommunication survey showed that 29% of enterprises are increasingly investing in proactive outbound communications.

Twenty first century communication (TFCC), a technology firm specializing in providing communication solutions through multi-channel platforms, affirm that proactively notifying customers on changes and disruptions would improve customer satisfaction, reduce inbound calls and lower overall communication costs by deflecting calls from call centers.

It is clear that outbound communications to customers is essential within a very competitive business landscape and doing that in a proactive manner is priceless. Customer satisfaction is achieved when customers are put at ease with a suitable and well delivered communication about delays, changes or disruptions to a scheduled service.

A revisit- to the southern railway announcement, did not put any of the passengers on platform three at ease. Most passengers including myself hissed and expressed utter dissatisfaction. One might wonder why passengers were complaining when a proactive outbound message was made but the inherent flaws in the message made everyone uneasy.

Based on an individual research, I would like to highlight the 4C’s in a proactive outbound communication:

1) Communication: In order to keep your customers at ease, improve brand affinity and bolster customer experience, communication is essential. Outbound communication via the relevant channel is paramount in proving to your customers that you are a brand they could trust. In this instance, southern railway made an outbound message about an impending delay to a scheduled train to London Bridge.

2) Convey: As a company, you have to convey the message through the relevant channel- social media, text, email, calls or in this example the public address system. Southern railways were successful in conveying the message to all passengers, in a very audible manner.

3) Content: When the relevant channel has been identified, the content of the outbound communication is very important. In this instance, the crux of Southern railway’s content comprised of a thirteen minutes delay to a London bridge bound train.

4) Construct: This is one of the most important factor as an American writer Caskie Stinnett once opined, “A diplomat is a person that can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.” The part of the outbound communication by southern railway that got most passengers dissatisfied was ‘… an unidentified reason….’ Constructing and sending across the outbound message in a reassuring manner and tone would have been preferable. A good example would have been ‘…an issue with the track or with the train that is currently under investigation.’ Customers want reasons for delays or disruptions and not just a mere announcement for the sake of it. Southern railway sounded like they had no clue on what was going on which left most passengers baffled and disgruntled.

Companies should make optimum attempt to get a bit of detail, before relaying a message if she desires to keep customers at ease and boost satisfaction. Like a good diplomat, the manner and approach at which words are utilized for every proactive outbound communication makes the difference between leaving your customer at the north (cold) or driving them to the south of customer satisfaction and brand advocacy.

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