Many organizations plan conversions or modifications that affect them internally and may make changes relevant to their customers. It should be obvious. When an organization makes a change that affects customers, the business should communicate with them about it.
Why is pre-change communication important?
Customers who rely on your service or products, plan their work or their personal or family lives around products and services they use. When you change something, you affect that balance.
Some changes require customers to make adjustments to their businesses or their lives that take time to implement. One, very old example, now is Y2K. Software had to be changed, tested and implemented before the change from 1999 to 2000. Planning took months, even years, ahead of time. Another example is the change in the US to Daylight Savings Time. Flights, trains and bus schedules needed to be changed and communicated well in advance of the actual change date. Other businesses, and the public had to make plans to deal with the change.
What kinds of communication are needed?
Even simple business models need to think through what and how to communicate with their customers. One of the best practices is to assemble a group of representative customers in a forum, (physically in the same location or using various technologies, bring people together electronically ), present the changes and listen carefully to their suggestions and criticisms of your plans. Customers will often bring insights you never thought of.
1. Communicate in advance of the change (if you can; ie: it is not illegal or impossible due to competition).
a. Give customers advance notice that things are changing and when. Use every communication channel you have to reach them, from notices in bills to using the press, internet sites and email lists.
b. Describe what the impact on them might be.
c. Tell customers what they need to do to prepare for changes or to use the changed product or service (if any).
d. Advise clients where to go to get more information or to answer any questions they have.
2. Communicate often. Don’t assume that customers read or listen to everything you send their way the first time. Over communicate! It is far better to over communicate using as many channels you have to reach them than to be accused of hiding information.
3. Listen and Respond to customer reactions.
4. If you made a mistake, don’t be afraid to say so and take action to rectify.
5. Be sure to tell customers if you adjust some aspect of the change as a result of feedback from them.
Be sure when creating a plan to modify some aspect of your organization, that you consider the customer’s perspective. Planning how the customer perceives the change will impact customer satisfaction with your products and services.