How changing the way you communicate can revolutionise your business

Change the way you communicate

Before I was an honorary Geordie, I lived in Weoley Castle, Birmingham for 35+ years.

My then local Police force, Birmingham South Police, announced that they were going to be using the social networking site, Twitter and held a 24 Hour Tweet-a-thon to promote the fact. that they would now be posting Tweets throughout the day to highlight what the force was doing that day in the area.

As I followed the Tweet-a-thon, I saw reports throughout the day of crackdowns on crime including drug busts, road traffic accidents, suspicious activity reported by members of the general public and even a lost puppy – all of which were followed up later on with news of how the incident was resolved (don’t worry, the puppy was found, safe and sound!)

The Tweets were a fascinating insight into what my local police force actually did on a day-to-day basis.

Clearly, I wasn’t the only person who thought this – the Birmingham South Police Twitter account shot up to over 1000 followers throughout the day, and for those not using Twitter, there was also a Birmingham South Police Facebook Page.

Choosing what we communicate and how

I know I’m not the only person who has at times bemoaned the fact that it “feels” there is never a Police officer around when you want one. I’ve heard this same complaint from neighbours and friends.

At the time of the Tweet-a-thon the Home Office had announced that crime figures had fallen 8% in the last Quarter, but this fact didn’t bring me any comfort or make me feel any safer.

Why is that? Because most people don’t relate to statistics, and instead focus on how they actually “feel” based on what they observe.

I spoke to lots of friends and neighbours who had followed Birmingham South Police’s 24 hour Tweet-a-thon, and without fail every one of them said something along the lines of: “I had no idea of how much the Police do every day!”

From these conversations, I felt a sense of reassurance and faith in the local police force that I hadn’t noticed before. People clearly liked knowing what was happening locally – whether it directly affected them or not.

This was a powerful lesson for me which demonstrated how not important to think about not only what we communicate, but how we communicate it.

Giving people the opportunity to engage

The bottom line is – it’s all about communication, both giving people the opportunity to engage with you if they choose to do so, acknowledging them, and keeping people “in the loop”.

It’s all about communication, both giving people the opportunity to engage with you if they choose to do so, acknowledging them, and keeping people in the loop. Click to Tweet

When I ran an MSP, I became very aware of the fact that we’d take clients on – it was typically when they’d been let down by other IT providers. Their infrastructure was in a shambles due to lack of maintenance, and IT was causing lost time and money on a day-to-day basis for their business.

Once we’d stabilised the situation with proactive monitoring and maintenance, within months the client would often get to the point where they rarely needed to call upon our services to resolve problems – simply because the problems had ceased to exist.

It’s at this stage that they started to question why they were paying for our services – after all, everything was now OK, right?

It dawned on me that it wasn’t enough to fix problems and proactively prevent others. The businesses we worked with had to be made aware of what we were doing for them, and how it helped them.

Changing the way you communicate

We started sending out daily reports, weekly summaries, and decision makers received monthly executive summaries.

On quiet days, we sent engineers to site to resolve problems that could easily be dealt with remotely to demonstrate that we weren’t just a voice the end of a telephone. We regularly met with clients for business reviews – not just when there was a problem and any changes, such as upgrades and patches, were notified to the client in advance, along with reasons and timescales. Requests for support were followed up with regular emails and phone calls, both during and after.

This reduced (and almost eliminated!) the number of times that Managed Service clients asked us that dreaded question… “What is it we are paying you for?”

How well are you communicating?

It doesn’t just apply to Service Delivery either. Ask yourself:

  • Do your clients know about all the products and services you provide?
  • Do your partners and allies know about your latest successes?
  • Do your prospective clients really know that you can help them with their pain points?

 

Once we changed how we communicated with our MSP clients, the only complaint we ever had was that we “over-communicated”, and that’s a complaint much easier to deal with than having to justify your continued existence to a client during a budget cut.

The Twitter experiment by Birmingham South Police was a huge success – they reassured around 1,000 local residents (effectively, their “clients”) who felt connected and acknowledged by their local police force.

It’s an experiment that many of us in all walks of business and life could learn from.

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Comments

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  • jillfeyka2011-02-03 00:37:24

    Excellent post and great insight. I will begin using Twitter soon enough. Congrats on being FP!

  • gvipromote2011-02-02 02:33:49

    Fascinating post–and congrats on being freshly pressed! blogging from Haiti, Kathy

  • nadsauve2011-01-31 15:22:08

    Excellent article about communication. Police Forces should use any information (statistical, technological social...) at their disposal.

  • potatosandwich2011-01-31 13:56:57

    For those Police Forces that are proactive in using technology to fight crime and keep the public informed, it's great. Having worked as a consultant delivering technology within KENT Police (UK), I have been fortunate to see the end result, which is a positive impact within the Community. Important thing to remember is that technology is only any good if it is embraced by those who will use it, and this does not include the Corporate Directors. Congrats on being FP.

  • www.imustseemovie.com2011-01-31 03:49:52

    Nice post

  • halfwayto502011-01-30 21:19:09

    Twitter and other social networds are here. Like it or not, organizations are smart to start figuring out how to use them as part of their business. I work at a school and we're also embracing Twitter and Facebook to communicate with parents, students, and the community. As part of the younger generation in the workforce, these applications are important to know and be able to use in whatever field you're in!

  • Nicole2011-01-30 20:19:12

    I think you would get sick to death of it after a while but, yes, policing is diverse and often thankless.

  • Zainab Khawaja2011-01-30 11:35:56

    Youre right that using Twitter to broadcast themselves probably played a major part in influencing how positively people see the police force. I think its a wonderful idea, and more public services should take on this approach. I live in Pakistan, and everyone knows how the police force is accused of everything from small-time bribes to large govt-scale corruption. I wish we had a system like this, where the police force could Tweet about what they do all day long, to inspire the public a little, and show that they really do care about the values and principles entrusted to their position. Unfortunately we lack the infrastructure and even the education and technical know-how to do so. Lovely post :) Do check out my blog if you have time!

  • srqpix2011-01-29 22:35:12

    Seems like I remember the police in our town having a twitter acct. but I haven't heard anything out of it lately. Maybe it would help with p.r. if the police here tweeted more with the citizens. Anyway a great post.

  • The Messiah2011-01-29 19:29:56

    Congratulations on getting freshly pressed. Communication and acknowledgment go a long way toward achieving happiness.

  • Ava Aston's Muckery2011-01-29 17:51:36

    Great pst chock fill of ideas and why we should communicate with others. Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Ava xox

  • fl'ame2011-01-29 13:06:16

    Great Ric, you pointed it out: the whole mankind needs to communicate much more. Communication is the only way to solve the global society's problems. Thanks for that. Start and never stop communication with family, friends, colleagues and all the other people you meet. Because without communication we cannot feel safe, when we do not know what the others like to do =) You want more about that? Okay, read http://globalsocietyblog.wordpress.com/orientation

  • tubblog2011-01-29 11:38:56

    @Sparksinshadow What I do is link my blog to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter - so that when I post a new blog it lets people on those channels know my blog is out there. Then, I respond to Re-Tweets, @ Comments and the like in the same way I respond to blog comments. Twitter is just another way of reaching people, in my opinion.

  • sparksinshadow2011-01-29 11:16:36

    Right. For brands and companies, even actors and celebrities, I understand how and why Twitter is used. But for the very young blog? I spend most of my free time just putting together my posts!

  • leadinglight2011-01-29 11:13:29

    Basic rule of services for clients, really. 1. Address the need/problem. 2. If you can't address the need/problem straight away, explain why clearly. 3. Tell them what you will be doing and when you will get on track with their problem. 4. Once your other duties that were delaying you are finished, tackle the problem of the client. 5. Let them know the solution. This is typical for me when I work in a private healthcare clinic as a medical office administrator. I think hospitals with long delays should also use this in a way that will not breach patient confidentiality. This is a great initiative by the Police.

  • tubblog2011-01-29 10:05:22

    @sparksinshadow Twitter, for me, is a way of connecting with like minded people. For brands and companies, when choosing which medium to make yourself available through to connect with people (Facebook, Twitter, E-Mail, LinkedIn, RSS Feeds, Telephone, Postal) - I think the answer should be "all of them". Different people choose to engage with you throguh different channels - and you should be open to them all.

  • tubblog2011-01-29 10:02:29

    @Beau - I saw one Tweet that said "If you're a burglar in the Harborne area - we're on to you". Now I'm sure criminals aren't checking their iPhones to keep track of Police Forces Twitter feeds, but as a member of the public, you can't help but smile at that Tweet can you? :-)

  • tubblog2011-01-29 10:00:51

    @Acleansurface I'm glad you found the blog useful. As you say, sometimes it's not enough to "do", you need to communicate that you're "doing". (Typo in first paragraph correct - thanks!)

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