7 top tips for communicating change to customers
When it comes to communicating change to the end-user experience, it pays to be transparent and authentic, particularly when announcing company or product changes with customers. Customers lie at the heart of everything we do. They look to us to help them with their journey beyond technology and it’s reasonable to expect them to query changes in technology products or services that they are accustomed to. This is particularly the case with technology that may underpin the financial and future forecasting viability of an organisation, and its day-to-day operations.
Communicating change to customers is also a timely topic because of the upheaval they have had to deal with both professionally and personally during the pandemic. Even when customer service keeps pace, anxiety may leak into the customer experience feedback. Creating the right experiences that stimulate loyalty in any customer base can no doubt be challenging during such a time of business disruption, but it is possible.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the top tips myself and my team have used to communicate change with our customers, and which we’ve been told were particularly helpful during the last year or so.
- Give your customers plenty of notice before you begin to implement change. Your product or service may be used in a specific way with certain customers or have impacts on their business processes and/or their clients. It’s considerate to be respectful of this and highlights how important it is to understand your customers on an individual basis and to comprehend the scope and specific way they are using your product. Change doesn’t affect everyone in the same way.
- Explain clearly and concisely the reason for the change. What will be the anticipated benefit or impact of the change for customers? It’s important that customers come away understanding change and don’t feel that technology features or functionality have been taken away or changed without any explanation. Most will be quite understanding of change when it is explained thoroughly, and well in advance.
- Invite feedback from customers on the change if appropriate. Use a community discussion group to do this if you have that facility for customers. We use our Customer Community groups to share important news with our customers and invite any feedback or comments so that we can make sure we have the full picture. Bear in mind however that you could get some polarising views, so it’s important to monitor your groups and agree on how you will respond to feedback. Response time is also key: it’s essential to agree on what is an acceptable response time among the customer service team.
- Use multiple channels to communicate change, including email, social, a customer community/website or videos. This recognises that people absorb information in different ways. We use our Customer Community to educate customers on changes, but we also post notices within the product, place messages on the telephone system, create email banners and host one-to-many webinars – it all depends on the scale of the change for customers.
- If it’s a significant change, a communication plan over a number of weeks may be required using the channels outlined above.
- Don’t over-promise, and be realistic about the impact of the change on customers and users of your product/service. As a broad topic, the headlines for change management are normally dominated by organisational change and how to communicate with employees. Typically, the advice is to keep employees informed, involved and empowered through the process. It’s good advice for your customers too and if you do it well, the change will feel almost seamless.
- Once that change has taken place and customers have experience of it, remember to ask for feedback on your approach. It’s important to learn lessons for the future when the next inevitable change will need to be rolled out.
Communicating change is not a one-off: it’s a process that managers should become comfortable with, and one that should be approached from a positive viewpoint. If your customers recognise themselves as a valued part of your community and feel their voices are heard, change management can help to facilitate open and more frequent communication and valuable feedback.
Head of Customer Success at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK, Elaine has dedicated her career to improving customer service and experience in the enterprise. Prior to joining Wolters Kluwer, Elaine was Director of Professional Services at Experian Data Quality UK.