Customer Experience (CX) remains a hot topic in 2020, but how do you see content fitting into the mix? If you consider it the sole domain of your Marketing Department, then you might be missing a trick. The voice of the customer should be reflected in all departments. After all, Forrester defines customer experience as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company”. And HubSpot says:
“The best way to define customer experience is as the impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand, across every stage of the customer journey. Multiple touchpoints factor into the customer experience, and these touchpoints occur on a cross-functional basis.”
If you think about it, every touchpoint and interaction with a customer is a form of content. Whether that’s a live chat message, a letter, an email, or a FAQ page on your website. And the quality of that content will shape the way your customers think and feel about you.
But when it comes to content, let’s be real. Things have got out of hand. As businesses, we’re serving our customers a huge volume of communications. It goes way beyond the Marketing and Comms Departments. There are privacy notices. Insurance claims letters. Customer service interactions. Legal terms and conditions. That’s just the start of it. And think of the types of employees creating that content. Legal teams. HR. Product. These employees don’t have training in creating clear, coherent messaging. They may not even know your brand tone of voice. Typically, this leads to a lack of clarity and consistency in terms of tone of voice and messaging too.
Are you easing your customers’ cognitive load?
Imagine one of your team members sends your customer a letter. A renewal notice, for example. She picks it up on her way to the school drop-off, before heading to coffee with friends. Her mind is on the tax return she needs to file next week. As soon as your customer’s eyes hit the words on your letter, her cognitive processing begins. She’s trying to make sense of it. But you’ve used jargon and long words that she’s not used to. The letter also contains dense, long sentences. It’s an effort for her to process what you’re trying to communicate.
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning author of Thinking Fast and Slow uses the terms “system 1” and “system 2” to describe how we process and understand information. System 1 is intuitive, non-thinking. System 2 kicks in when some mental energy is required. If I ask you your full name, your system 1 brain immediately answers. No problem. But what if I ask you to wade through a wall of text stuffed with jargon and long sentences? You’re likely to switch off. You’ve lost your customer’s engagement. And in this case, that also means her custom and loyalty. She churns.
How to ensure you’re creating clear communications at scale
Your organization’s content needs to be super clear to cut through the noise. In terms of language, structure, and even layout. So, what practical steps can you take to address this?
- Take stock of all your content channels. A great first step is to carry out a content audit across your organization as a whole, and map out all customer touchpoints. Go beyond the typical content-creating departments. Think about Customer Service, Operations, Finance. You’d be surprised at how many so-called “non-customer-facing” teams create content.
- Benchmark content quality. Once you’ve mapped out all the ways in which you talk to customers, ensure you’re meeting standards. You could start by determining whether all content is written in a correct, consistent tone of voice. Are you inadvertently making your customers work hard to understand your messaging? Are FAQs and relevant support correctly signposted? Do you use too much industry jargon? Too many long sentences? Is your content readable and pitched at an appropriate grade level? By the way, research shows the average US citizen reads at seventh grade level. This means your content should be as understandable as the Harry Potter novels.
- Develop internal workflows.You’ve established standards for your content. And you now have benchmarks for content quality. How will you measure content going forward? This is a difficult thing to do manually. You will need to automate and streamline the process. Look into solutions that offer you a holistic way of measuring content. An executive oversight for teams’ performance will enable you to offer constructive and meaningful feedback. And continuously benchmark progress. Not to mention onboard new hires more easily.
Better content = Better Customer Experience = Boosted bottom lines
There are huge gains for businesses who prioritize clear communications. Not only in terms of better customer experience, but also in relation to boosted profits and reduced operational costs.
Think of a well-known example from plain language pioneer Siegelvision. They worked with a government agency to help them eliminate “tax speak” from their notices. A 10-page notification package full of jargon-laden terms became engaging notices written in plain English. Taxpayer confusion dropped by 50%, and they saw a 23% drop in call center traffic. Not only that, but taxpayers became even more willing to part with their money. There was a 3% increase in people paying within four weeks. Clearer content led to reduced internal costs, as well as better financial results. And happier, less confused, customers. Win-win-win.
Recently, VisibleThread worked with an insurance company on their benefit letters.
The letters were overly complex, and difficult to consume. Our client made the necessary changes to 11 letters, and sent out new benefit letters written in plain language. The result? A drop of 19% in customer calls, and a saving of $325k annually.
Why words really matter
Content is crucial when it comes to great customer experience. Failure to communicate clearly erodes trust. But organizations who embrace the power of clear content enjoy loyal customers and a healthier bottom line. There is a huge opportunity here for the taking. Address content clarity, and see your customer experience soar this year.