In previous articles, I discussed at length the growing cost of ineffective and inconsistent communication on businesses. As we look forward, it might be easy to think that this cost may decrease as the pandemic subsides — this is far from the truth.
In reality, the pandemic only accelerated what were long-brewing trends: increasing globalization, workplace flexibility, and an emphasis on the employee and customer experience, to name a few. One analysis found that organizational complexities like these will actually increase post-COVID as operating models evolve, much like we saw after the global financial crisis.
As these trends escalate, the leaders who prepare their organizations now will succeed and gain a competitive advantage. But too many have instead found themselves stuck in an ongoing pendulum: swinging back and forth between cost-saving measures and innovation. Others may still be in survival mode dealing with current economic and operational uncertainties rather than looking ahead.
How can leaders ready their organizations to enhance performance in the long term and at scale? In this climate, improving communication is the single best investment leaders can make to avoid the costs and friction of a post-pandemic world.
How Better Communication Is the Catalyst of Long-Term Success
As we interact in more places and ways than ever before, future business success will hinge on how well organizations deliver exceptional experiences — for employees, customers and other stakeholders.
For employees, organizations must find new ways to connect and support an increasingly diverse and dispersed workforce. In the coming year, we’ll see more employers expand their global reach through outsourcing and offshoring, or even “rent” talent to fill skills gaps as they adapt to change. Even for companies that keep operations within the U.S., global and remote hiring will contribute to rising diversity as high numbers of multilingual employees become the norm. These shifts compound the challenges of connecting the workforce, creating more opportunities for communication barriers that leaders must overcome to maintain productivity.
For consumers, brands must change how they think about engagement to build in more authenticity and impact. In many cases, the constraints of the pandemic made interactions more impersonal and transactional, leaving customers craving more empathy and personalization. Brands need to inject more of a human touch into all customer interactions and touchpoints hold their attention and loyalty.
And for B2B companies, improving the quality and speed of interactions means closing more deals, strengthening relationships and generating more opportunities. One study found half of B2B buyers are holding off on purchases because of the pandemic, while digital and remote engagement reign supreme. Leaders need to nail these digital interactions to get through to buyers and keep pace with changing preferences.
The fact is that effective communication underpins the ability to deliver all of these new experiences for employees, customers and stakeholders — making all the difference in businesses’ ability to quickly deliver on results. With the proper clarity, engagement, and consistency across all internal and external interactions, organizations will be well-equipped to rise to evolving demands and drive efficient growth.
Why Communication Is This Year’s Best Investment: An ROI Analysis
It’s no secret that investments in remote-work tools have skyrocketed in the past year. Given the shift to virtual collaboration, most have focused on adding new channels and systems for connectivity, increasing the volume of interactions occurring within and outside companies. Yet, overlooked are investments to improve the effectiveness of all these communications — presenting a backlog of value to capture.
In particular, written communication offers a significant opportunity in terms of both immediate and long-term payback. Billions of written interactions occur daily across platforms like email, chat, messaging, and collaboration tools. In 2020 alone, roughly 306.4 billion emails were sent and received daily, a figure expected to increase to over 376.4 billion by 2025.
Improving written interactions across platforms — even by an incremental amount — adds up to a significant boost in efficiency across the entire organization. In the near term, this leads to outcomes like faster sales, lower service costs, and rapid customer support. It also delivers continuous improvement and value over time to improve areas like customer retention, brand perception, and employee engagement.
Let’s take a look at the potential ROI of improving written communication, based on analysis of a real multinational manufacturing company. One of the company’s communications-heavy teams deployed AI-powered writing assistant technology to enhance internal and external communication. With an investment of $150 per employee, each team member using the tool saved an estimated average of 147 hours annually on writing and editing.
Assuming a salary anywhere in the $15-$50/hour range, that equates to $2,205 to $7,350 in value of time saved per employee — or up to a 14-49x return on the original investment.
Investing in Technology Solutions That Help, Not Hinder
Early in the pandemic, businesses that rushed to deploy new productivity tools often unintentionally created more complexity and digital overload among teams.
A year into the pandemic, leaders need to re-evaluate investments to enhance communication for the long haul while requiring minimal lift. Organizations don’t need more ways to connect; they need ways to optimize existing communications and interactions. The right solutions work invisibly alongside employees wherever they are and provide robust functionality — so much so that leaders can consolidate or cut back on other investments.
Here are the key features to look for in technology solutions:
- Proven business value, impact and ROI
- Automated and AI-powered to deliver rich, personalized experiences
- Enterprise-grade, stringent standards for security and privacy, compliance and availability
- Seamless integration across the digital ecosystem to enhance existing channels and workflows
- Analytics and administrative controls to monitor impact on business performance
The Bottom Line
As we look ahead, business leaders must recognize there is no going “back to normal” — the one constant they can expect is ongoing change. And in periods of transition, communication is even more critical to reduce friction points and inefficiencies that slow companies down, erode investments, and exhaust workforces.
By investing in a foundation of effective communication today, leaders will position themselves well to meet these new operating realities — and scale in 2021 and beyond.
For more on why investing in effective communication is critical for long-term success, visit www.grammarly.com/business.