Unless a Communication Results in the Desired Change, it is just an Illusion.


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It is common knowledge that clear, concise, open communication is of fundamental importance for interacting with others, building relationships, conveying information and changing behaviour. However, our chief concern even today is what George Bernard Shaw said about a century ago: ‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’

This illusion can create innumerable problems at the workplace. It can impede action, cause embarrassment, create employee dissatisfaction and result in customer defection. Communication forms the bedrock of day to day operations in any business activity, more so, for delivering good customer service. Good communication acts as a vehicle for knowing the customer’s needs, for responding with a suitable action, for confirming that the need is met and that the customer is satisfied.

“Communication between humans is clearly, an essential element for all levels of activity. We all communicate, or, at least attempt to do so all the time.” And yet, the paradox is that more we communicate the more we seem to fail. Contrary to the normal phenomenon, “in which one expects to become more skilled at activities that are performed frequently, most of us are pretty bad communicators (Jerry C. Wofford et. All. McGraw Hill, 1977, page 44).

Transmitting information is not necessarily a ‘communication’ in itself. Many managers, in line with the ‘conveyor theory of communications,’ adopt an attitude that a communication is completed once the text or data is transmitted. But that is where they go wrong. In the absence of an interpretive behaviour, we have only raw data or perhaps noise and illusion. Communication is a stimulus, a response, a feedback, getting at the same wave length, and finally ending up in a desired behaviour. Unless that change is seen, communication has not served the purpose it is intended to serve. The responsibility for ensuring that the end result is achieved lies with the ‘manager’. A manager cannot escape his/her responsibility for a communication failure by stating, ‘But I sent you a mail.’

Poor Communication Causes Complaint Escalation

According to an analysis made by me several years ago, seven out of ten customer complaints addressed to a company’s CEO in a period of six months, presented a highly exaggerated picture because of poor communications. Sure enough, the genesis of the complaint lay in some default—a short or wrong supply, missed delivery dates, upset project schedules, delayed or inadequate service response—but as we went through the details of the episodes we found unmistakable evidence that the intensity of customer’s irritation stems more out of poor communication rather than the real problem itself. Lack of understanding of each other’s position, attempt to win arguments, and misinterpretation of communications continue to delay a serious attempt at grappling with the real issue and hence the problem finds its way up to the CEO.

Organisational communication has to receive serious, ongoing, attention at all levels of management, because the effect of poor communications manifests itself in an ambiguous working climate that affects many day-to-day activities in a negative manner. On the other hand, clear, concise, consistent communication is one of the major contributors to employees’ satisfaction and emotional engagement. Only highly engaged people can put in the all-important discretionary effort without which no company can achieve the breakthrough service quality it may want to deliver.
Source; Organisational Schizophrenia: Impact on Customer Service Quality http://bit.ly/1au7JeJ

Gopal Gureja
Spanning 1960-1996, service manager in mfg. sector - Thermax Ltd; business unit head, member of board of directors; Published Creating Customer Value (Tata McGraw-Hill, 1997); taught Relationship Mktg/CRM at business schools, wrote sporadic articles for business dailies; Authored Organisational Schizophrenia: Impact on Customer service quality (SAGE, 2013), occasional consulting/speaking assignments.


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