In 2008, the shipping company DHL ran an ad campaign touting their outstanding customer service.
Each ad showed different service encounters where a DHL employee went above and beyond. The tagline was, "We're putting service back in the shipping business."
It wasn't true.
In November that year, DHL announced they were pulling out of the U.S. domestic shipping business. The company faced a myriad of problems, one of the biggest being their woeful customer service.
DHL's CEO, John Mullen, was quoted at the time as saying, "It's hard to see what could have been done that would have led to a different result."
But, there is something they should have done: audit their marketing and communications.
Why Conduct an Audit?
Your company's advertising is essentially a promise to customers. So, if you advertise something, you had better be able to deliver it. Customers naturally get disappointed when you promise them something and it doesn't happen.
Imagine a chain of furniture stores that promises same day delivery in their advertising. Fast delivery is the hook to get you in the door. But, what happens if there's a laundry list of exceptions to the same day promise?
A customer who expected same-day delivery when she ordered a couch won't be very happy to learn it will actually take two weeks.
It's scenarios like that that make it essential to conduct a regular marketing and communications audit. You'll avoid service failures if you spot (and fix) promises that aren't being kept.
How to Conduct Your Audit
Here's a three step process you can use to audit your marketing and communications.
Step 1: List all advertised promises. Check your advertising, brochures, and other collateral. Find out what your salespeople are pitching. Look at signage. Listen to your hold messages.
Step 2: Test each promise. Run a test on each promise to see if your company can actually deliver it. For instance, a bank is promoting their ATM machines as a faster and easier alternative than completing a teller-assisted transaction. You can test this promise by timing the same transaction via both channels.
Step 3: Make a list to fix. Identify broken promises that need to be fixed. Perhaps your advertising needs to be adjusted. Or, maybe your company needs to boost some capabilities to improve operations. The key is making sure what's promised is what gets delivered.
What to Audit
Here are a few specific things you should consider auditing.
As I write this, I'm waiting to get my car back from the mechanic. I was told it would be two days, but I just called to check the status and learned it will now be three.
Check on anything you deliver, whether it's a service, merchandise, or the time to complete a repair or service call.
That's why Netflix frequently sends it's DVD subscribers an email asking, "When did you mail this DVD?" or "When did you receive this DVD?" They're monitoring their delivery to make sure it stays within the promised range.
Check out fast you respond to customers via various channels.
For example, the new response time standard for email is one hour. If you can't respond in one hour, make sure you have an auto-responder set up to let customers know when you will respond. And then, time your responses to make sure you're fulfilling that promise.
KLM does this for their Twitter account, regularly posting their expected response time on their profile page.
There's a great scene in the movie Falling Down where Michael Douglas's character, D-Fens, loses his mind because he's served a fast food hamburger that looks nothing like what's shown on the menu.
It's an extreme example, but customers really don't appreciate it when the product doesn't match what's advertised.
Look at the product images you display on websites, brochures, menus, etc. and make sure they closely match what you're actually delivering.
You can learn more about this and other techniques in a new training video, The Manager's Guide to Managing Customer Expectations on Lynda.com.
Here's a short preview video.