Posts Tagged ‘customer focused communication’

Does Your E-mail Send the Wrong Message?

Friday, December 18th, 2009

by Lauren Shapiro*

“Can you email me?”message in a bottle

How many times a day do you hear that question? In BurrellesLuce Client Services, we hear it quite often and rightfully so; we are officially citizens of a digital era, habitually bound to the confines of the written word. When you study computer-mediated communication (CMC) or for purposes of this blog… email there are a lot of big words and complex theories to sum up a very simple concept – How you type your message is equally important, if not more important, than the actual message itself.  

Unfortunately for most of us, we have yet to find the Emily Post of netiquette. However, we do know there are many variables that can contribute to an email going bad. The most overlooked (and most dangerous) is the misinterpretation of email tone. Studies show that email receivers tend to experience a neutrality effect: Recipients often interpret positively toned emails as neutral and neutrally toned emails as negative.  This makes our job as email senders very difficult and forces us to be mindful of how others will read our message.

It is extremely important to take a step back and re-read your email from the receiver’s perspective and then edit to ensure that the positive nature of your email comes across clearly. In a post on, Alyssa Gregory discusses how a poorly toned email can easily be misinterpreted. This misinterpretation poses a threat to the budding e-lationship that is being built.

Whether it’s in PR, marketing, or client services, what steps are you taking to help ensure that you are effectively communicating with your constituents? What steps can we take as an industry to help promote good communication?

*Bio: Soon after graduating from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, in 2006 with a B.A. in communication and a B.S. in business/marketing, I joined the BurrellesLuce client services team. In 2008, I completed my master’s degree in corporate and organizational communications and now work as the supervisor of BurrellesLuce Express client services. I am passionate about researching and understanding the role of email in shaping relationships from a client relation/service standpoint as well as how miscommunication occurs within email, which was the topic of my thesis. Through my posts on Fresh Ideas, I hope to educate and stimulate thoughtful discussions about corporate communications and client relations, further my own knowledge on this subject area, as well as continue to hone my skills as a communicator. Twitter: @_LaurenShapiro_ LinkedIn: laurenrshapiro Facebook: BurrellesLuce 

Public Relations and Customer Relations: Are You Listening to Your Constituents?

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Remember the old adage, “give someone good service and they’ll tell one other person, but give them bad service, and they’ll tell 10?”? Well, welcome to the world of social media, where instead of telling 10 people, stakeholders can now tell hundreds or thousands of people in under 140 characters.

Last week, one of my friends was complaining about TD Bank. She had not been able to do online banking for at least five days; the phone lines were jammed and deposits were not posting correctly. She was surprised by the lack of media coverage, especially considering the many tweets about the issues. By late Wednesday, TD Bank started talking to the media, so stories started popping up, like this one from NBC New York. But, the issue continued, and customers felt neglected.

PR people can learn from this experience. We all need to be monitoring what is being said about our company, organization or brands on a regular basis, so we can share information before the story takes on a life of its own. We all remember and never want to deal with the likes of this “United Breaks Guitars” YouTube video from a few months ago or the one below.




At the PRSA-NCC Thoth News Seminar last week, Debbi Jarvis, vice president corporate communications, Pepco, relayed their strategy. Jarvis believes it is extremely important to keep communication with the public in the PR department. After all, communicators are trained to be able to best relay the company messages. I spoke with Andre Francis, who manages the @PepcoConnect Twitter account. He is constantly monitoring mentions of Pepco and other industry terms. He has a procedural strategy in place for contacting customers, and getting a sense of their issue. He will ask them to e-mail him a full description, and then he works with Pepco customer care to resolve the issue.

At the Baltimore Public Relations Council’s September Conference, “PR Survival: Online, on the Job and in the Future,” several of the presenters reminded attendees to be transparent and pro-active with their communication to the public and media. In my presentation, I used a BurrellesLuce example, where monitoring Twitter helped us address a complaint and gain a customer advocate.

Can you share some of your public relations/customer relations best practices? How is your organization integrating PR, customer service and marketing successfully?

Customer-Focused Communications, Seriously?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Sandra Holtzman, today’s guest blogger and president of Holtzman Communications, has over 20 years experience as a marketing strategist and writer/creative director working across a spectrum of sectors including consumer products. She’s the author of “Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.” 

Many companies give lip service to customer-focused communications. Think – when was the last time you actually sat in a market research session (not behind the two-way mirror or sending one of your minions) with your customers – face-to-face – and listened to them? And when was the last time they had a chance to help you with your marketing? Most companies would answer never, or worse we do that all the time.

It’s likely that neither response is true.

In traditional market research you usually ask for their response to your already-created materials. So you’re communicating to them that you’re not asking what they think, you just want to know what they think about your ideas.

If that’s what you do, be prepared to learn next to nothing about how they really feel.

True customer-focused communications does not resemble what most companies are used to calling marketing. To resonate with your customers, you need to communicate with each person in a way that is compelling to them, based on their needs. Given the chance, they will give you the information you need to make your marketing more effective. But you have to be humble enough and listen enough to learn from them about how they want to be “told and sold”.

There are multiple benefits to using this kind of communications:

  • You’re speaking to customers in their language
  • Your customers are getting your messages quicker
  • Your message is consistent and recognizable across all customer groups
  • You’re giving customers assurance that you will meet their needs

This type of research is more efficient and effective-you do the research once, and you execute the right message once, saving you time and money. And finally, by using actual customer-focused communications, you are separating yourself from the usual clutter, which strengthens your brand.  For a comparison of traditional market research vs. customer-focused research see

Example:  Stiefel Laboratories wanted a direct-to-consumer website created to launch their new Rx acne medicine.  The primary audience for this launch was teenagers with active acne. In a customer-focused research session, the kids shared with us not only what they wanted to see on a website, but also their concerns about acne – for instance, they were concerned about what to do when they had a breakout on a date night.

They helped us create a website. It was truly unique. Not something that appeals to brand managers or adults, but to the target audience. Scripts for the medication jumped from 100,000 to over a million.

Some of their competitor’s tried to imitate their site (see the case history) but they never caught on to why the Stiefel website was so successful.  It’s simple.   

If you listen to your customers, they will end up listening to you, seriously.