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What crisis communication can teach us about the ideal approval process

crisis communication

How your company responds in a crisis—and communicates that response—will impact your ability to retain customers, avoid significant damage, and grow your business. 

Crisis communication is an important aspect of business continuity, but it’s also critical to showing customers that you’re responding to their needs. Emotions are running high. What you do and say during a crisis will influence brand sentiment in a visceral, lasting way.

To stay on the front foot during the pandemic, companies have been paying close attention to how the crisis impacts customers and have been changing their processes so they can quickly get the right messages out, as and when they’re needed.

Inevitably, that’s required a shake-up of approval processes. Business leaders are acutely aware of the need to rapidly adjust messaging and release communications within short timeframes.

But this begs the question: shouldn’t you be striving for that same kind of adaptability all the time? Let’s explore why approval processes should and can adapt for the better.

Crises bring poorly managed approval processes into focus

crisis communication

It’s understandable that the current pandemic has sent business leaders scrambling to some extent. After all, it’s unexpected and the repercussions have been all encompassing. 

However, just as companies that were already prepared for remote working had a smoother transition—companies with more flexible and automated approval processes will have had an easier time issuing crisis communications messaging.

The truth is, approval processes related to customer communication management (CCM) and customer experience management (CXM) are problematic for many companies in the best of times. 

They tend to be:

  • Poorly understood, with a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities
  • Poorly differentiated: is approval needed for design, content quality, legal purposes?
  • Delayed by busy approvers, manual proofing steps and confusion due to poor version control 
  • Inflexible and rarely updated based on feedback or changes to requirements

Not only does the process typically not work well—it’s often a drain on employee productivity with people having to read multiple, irrelevant emails; track down or access the right files; wait on responses; and manage conflicting/irrelevant feedback. 

Ineffective CCM and CXM approval processes are one of the major roadblocks to truly responsive and efficient business communication.

When businesses have to find ways to adapt and hasten approval in a crisis, they can. Crises require urgent action, which tend to expose gaps in systems and processes, and should trigger innovation and new approaches.  

Adaptable approval processes lead to more engaged customers

Investing in a better approval process for customer communications is a wise move because it builds your operational resilience and capacity to meet customer expectations in any situation. 

Communications play an important role in crises because the outcome of any event is uncertain. People are worried, stressed, and confused. Clear and timely information and support offers reassurance and relief. 

Businesses may be more attuned to the need for timely, nuanced, and empathetic interactions during a crisis—but these qualities are always fundamental to a great customer experience. 

Numerous studies of customer experience show customers expect companies to:

  • Solve their problems quickly (and solve them once, correctly!)
  • Communicate with them in real-time
  • Communicate with them across their preferred channels
  • Personalise communications based on past interactions

A crisis simply intensifies customers’ desires for valuable information and services, accessible and easy-to-use information, and experiences that make them feel good.

A more adaptable approval process during ‘business as usual’ periods will also safeguard your business for future crises, because it embeds approaches that help you communicate with greater accessibility, clarity, and openness. 

Brands with a history of transparency in their communications are more likely to retain customers in a crisis, and almost 9 in 10 consumers are more likely to give them a second chance after bad experiences. 

Transformed, digitally driven approaches make sense post-pandemic 

The pandemic has shown just how quickly circumstances can change, and how adaptable companies need to be to continually deliver a high-quality customer experience. 

Remote work has become the norm, digital services and business models have exploded; internal processes have shifted to enable an appropriate response. Many of these changes will likely become a bigger part of how companies operate and deliver value. 

A McKinsey report on how marketing leaders can shape the future of their organisations in the face of the pandemic, suggests a need to rethink how to better use tools and capabilities to connect with customers, rather than relying on the old playbook.

“Past behaviours and habits won’t necessarily be what consumers and customers want when the crisis ends, so developing a clear perspective on which habits will stick, which won’t, and for which segments will be crucial.”

McKinsey reports the crisis has increased the rate of customers evaluating and switching to different brands based on convenience and promotions—a trend it believes could become more prevalent due to the scale and nature of the disruption. 

Now is the time to double-down on process and system improvements that help you communicate with customers in a clearer, more authentic, and immediate way. 

Integrate approvals with a coordinated approach to CCM and CXM

If your approval processes have had to adapt during the pandemic to ensure you can react as customer communication needs evolve, consider how you can embrace technology to streamline and automate critical workflows.

Given that it’s getting harder to gain customers’ trust and loyalty, it makes sense to keep the momentum going post-pandemic. That may require strategic investment in systems that combine high levels of coordination and flexibility.

For instance, cloud-based platforms like CoTé’s virsaic™ ensure you can:

  • Easily create on-brand documents tailored to evolving customer needs 
  • Modify templates and processes based on business or service changes
  • Ensure the right people review/approve documents at the correct stage
  • Apply feedback, analytics, and other data to improve communications
  • Manage customer interactions across all inbound and outbound channels

Communicating as and when customers need it and improving the customer experience can be achieved—regardless of what else is happening in the world—with unified systems in place and a commitment to continual improvement.

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