Most successful fleet owners realize the importance of clear, consistent communications with employees, customers and vendors. They understand how it saves time and money because it makes operations more efficient and cost effective. It builds stronger customer relations and it makes you and your team aware of both challenges and opportunities.
However, when something negative happens, or a crisis occurs, some business leaders believe it is wiser to simply not communicate and wait for the “storm” to blow over. However, there is a simple principle that goes into action. You cannot not communicate!!
For example, you miss the deadline for a very important delivery to a valuable customer. As a fleet owner, you can simply choose to not communicate with your employees or the customer and hope that the issue will not happen again. However, remember – you cannot not communicate. Communications will continue even if you elect to not participate.
If you do not communicate with the customer, they could easily assume you do not view them as a valuable customer. They may assume you do not even know about the problem – which means you are not on top of your operations. They may tell other existing or potential customers about the problem and begin to evaluate other options for their shipping needs. Failure to communicate with the customer will escalate the issue, impact your reputation and could ultimately cost you a valuable client.
If you do not communicate with the team who failed to deliver, communications does not stop. Without clear communications about the issue, the team may assume that: it was not really a problem, the customer is not that important, future delivery dates and times are not that important, and they will probably have their own discussions around what they should do – if anything. Your failure to communicate leaves a vacuum that is quickly filled by assumptions and usually false information.
Internal and external communications are dynamic and never stop. If you fail to communicate, someone will fill the void and most likely the results will not be positive.
Here are five quick, yet powerful steps that will keep communications flowing:
Get the facts – When a crisis occurs or an important issue arises, quickly gather the facts. If at all possible, determine: what happened, how customers have been or will be impacted, has this happened before, what is being done now and what will be done to prevent the same issue from occurring again?
Identify who needs the information – Is the situation or crisis limited to one customer, one market, one area of operations, or is it more wide spread? Clearly identify who is directly involved, plus determine if a more widespread distribution of information is warranted. If the situation has attracted media attention a more extensive response plan will be required.
Develop the communications - This may be as simple as bullet points that you want to cover with a customer during a phone call or a meeting, or a written statement that would be distributed to all employees.
Identify the best communications channel to use – Often a direct call or visiting the customer in person is the ideal way to answer questions, explain what happened and what you are doing to ensure it does not happen again. Communicating with employees may involve individual or team meetings, or a simple, direct email that explains what happened, how the issue was addressed and what should be done in the future to avoid similar problems. You can also use this as an opportunity to reinforce company values, mission statements, the importance of customer service, etc.
Communicate as quickly as possible – As soon as you complete the four steps above, launch the communications. It may be necessary to engage others to assist in delivering the message to ensure the message is delivered quickly and accurately. Remember – a lack of communications creates a void that is quickly filled with misinformation and rumors. You want to deliver accurate, well planned communications through the best channels as quickly as possible. For some fleet operations, this may mean posting on your Facebook page, or using text messaging to expedite the delivery.
You cannot not communicate. However, you can establish a simple process to prevent communications voids that can easily result in lost customers, employees and profits.