DELIVERING A MESSAGE WELL
MAKE INFORMATION SIMPLE, EASY AND CLEAR TO NAVIGATE
Make sure your communication is straightforward and uncomplicated, as this will make it easier for your audience to digest and understand. Also, make it as easy as possible for your audience to find the information they need.
We, in IT, often assume a greater level of technical comprehension than our users have. If you need to communicate technical detail then break it down so it’s easily digestible to everyone in your audience without exception. You may be able to present layers of information so those who would like more detail and are more technically adept can find it through optional links. Always ensure the user knows where they can get further clarification, help or more technical information. Avoid technical detail, abbreviations and IT language if you are communicating with non-IT staff (perhaps consider this when communicating with IT staff too).
Consider who your audience is, and if the message will be obvious and discernible to them. For example:
- Are you communicating with a group of students or with a forum of senior leaders?
- Bear in mind that English may not be a first language for some of your recipients.
- Ensure that your content is accessible for staff and students with disabilities.
You can find out more about identifying your stakeholders and how to communicate with them in Who to Communicate to.
USE AN APPROPRIATE TONE AND STYLE
Creating content involves much more than simply putting words into an email. Two of the most important factors of any written content are tone and style. Consistency can help you establish a “voice” for your team and overall image, and this consistency is invaluable in connecting with your audience because it gives them a familiar voice of authority.
The tone and style should fit the subject. However, you should try where possible to make your communications positive. When you need to communicate an event or issue that has a negative impact on your users, be factual and affirmative. You can usually add something reassuring, such as, “IT are doing the best we can to minimise disruption” and be clear on when and where further updates will be provided.
Humour can be great way of engaging with customers but be aware that we do not all find the same things amusing, and involving humour during a major incident is not advisable! Once an issue is fixed you may find it appropriate, e.g.
“Yes, that means we did switch it off and on again”
The human factor
Storytelling is a great way to bring your information alive and has the power to draw people in. Think about how you might make that service more “human”, perhaps by using photographs of IT support staff and others in an immediate staff or student facing role. It’s important too to include real names to communications - nobody wants to communicate with an unknown person! Ensure staff answer phones and use written communications in a consistent manner, again remembering to include names.
Next time you are working on a project, are implementing a new service or simply doing your standard BAU be reminded of that at the end of each process, each system, each service, each piece of equipment that we purchase, install and support sits a real live human and let’s make the words customer experience really mean something!
We need to up our game and take our industry to the next level of maturity, regardless of what’s happening around us and regardless of what new shiny stuff comes our way. We need to keep focussed, keep improving and most important of all keep it human.
Sally Bogg | Former Head of End User Services, Client Services, Leeds Beckett University
DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN GIVING INFORMATION AND CALLS FOR ACTION
Do you need the recipient to do anything? If so, what? Make sure this is clear in your communication, and include full instructions if needed. Let recipients know who they can contact for more information and support. Be clear about schedules for any further updates (this might include links to a service status website, or to social media pages.
(See What to communicate for examples and resources).