Communicating Effectively for Success (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“I’d like to improve communication at my laundry, internally and externally. What advice do you have? What’s been effective for your business?”

Consulting Services: Chris Mayer, Performance Matters, Plymouth, Minn.

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Chris Mayer

Chris Mayer

The key word in this question is “effective.” It starts with communicating the mission and vision statement for the organization, which ultimately is the “what,” both internally and externally. The detailed communication to your team around the “how” is imperative to reaching company goals.

Having worked closely with business executives in our industry and Fortune 500 companies outside of our industry, there are many considerations and best practices. Since it’s such a massive topic, I’ll mostly highlight a few internal communication ideas within production, sales and service:

1. PRODUCTION

Be very specific, narrow and timely. We improved our production efficiency in a start-up organization by 61% through a method that Target stores had used for many years. We held five-minute shift start-up team meetings by functional group to review the previous day’s productivity results, weekly trends and what the upcoming workload looked like for the upcoming shift. It aligned management goals and expectations with the production team members.

Any time you can have direct customer feedback (positive or negative), related to product quality, let the people on the front lines know about it. Be specific to the customer and their issues. 

Engage the production team with the “jeopardy” accounts that are experiencing problems with product quality that your production team can positively impact.

Have your production manager and supervisors go on routes on a regular basis to improve communication between service and production. The production management team will hear performance results firsthand from the customer. It assists the two teams to get on the same page with facts rather than conjecture.  

2. SALES

Communication needs to be motivating, engaging and positive for the sales team. Individually, communication needs to be specific and accountable. Praise in public and reprimand in private. This is critical for sales reps because of how they’re “wired.”

Don’t only post results and expect it to motivate a sales rep; it needs to also be communicated verbally. Tailor communication to be something motivational with broader goals and impacts. “Connect the dots” between their efforts and what it means for the overall business.  

3. SERVICE

Over-communication is the key, with so many moving parts in our unique industry. Weekly service team meetings are the best practice seen in higher-functioning organizations. We’ve seen the positive impacts of holding weekly meetings, over and over again. Think of ways to make it happen and eliminate the reasons not to. Make sure the content is engaging, and let the route reps primarily lead the meeting, not management.

If you’re currently not holding daily one-on-one meetings with your route reps, once started, it will improve results faster than virtually any other activity you can deploy. It’s the most productive 10-15 minutes that a manager can spend with his or her route rep. 

A comprehensive customer research study surprisingly showed that a scheduled and effective management visit with larger major accounts was the No. 1 activity to improve customer loyalty. These customers didn’t ask for it, however, so when they received it, it made the biggest impact on customer loyalty scores. 

Over the years, our consulting team has seen a variety of communication methods. They range from extremely effective methods to communication techniques that are detrimental to the business. We encourage the power of improved communication and how it can positively impact the financial results. The results have usually been immediate. Though it can be challenging, if done correctly, it can significantly boost both growth and profit results.

Long-Term Care Laundry, Kathrine Flitsch, Wheaton Francsican Healthcare, Brookfield, Wis.

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Kathrine Flitsch

Kathrine Flitsch

Communication is a huge part of making sure things run smoothly within our laundry department. We use several different ways to communicate with one another throughout our workday.

Our facility linens are processed off-site, and we need to place our order daily for our linen delivery. We rely on the fax machine to send our daily needs list and rely on the person receiving the fax at the other end to process it correctly. A safeguard is in place in case the fax is not received to prevent us from missing a delivery.

We are able to communicate effectively by knowing exactly who to contact when things do not go as they should. Knowing who to call to get it straightened out really reduces our workload and time spent trying to get issues resolved. 

Within our facility, we rely on our phone and voice mail, and we keep a log of calls, if follow-up is required, so that we can ensure smooth operations. The associates we work with within our facility know that the phone is the best way to reach our laundry associates. Call logs can be reviewed to see what needs to be done; this also gives us the ability to look for trending as well. Communicating within the department is important.

Knowing your audience is important. When communicating, do not use terms that people will not understand. Keeping the message simple and to the point makes it much easier to know what is expected.

We are constantly working on better ways to stay in contact with those who need us. Our facility recently moved to text pagers. The message is displayed on the pager, saving us time and helping us get exactly what is needed.

When important information needs to be communicated, we use memos. We have associates read the memo and offer copies of it to reference and have a sign-off sheet to ensure that everyone got the same message and knows the information we are sharing.  

Postings within the department are another way to get messages out to all who work in the area. Making them clear and concise gets the message out about what is expected.

Giving people simple but effective ways to communicate makes it easier for us to keep doing what we need to be doing. At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure our patients and residents have exactly what they need.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion with insights from the textiles and commercial laundry sectors.

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