On a bitterly cold Christmas night in 1776, George Washington’s Continental Army crossed the frozen Delaware River in order to launch a surprise attack on a garrison of German mercenary soldiers in Trenton, N.J. A local spy got wind of the plan and sent a note to the German commander, Colonel Johann Rall.
However, Rall was in the middle of a Christmas celebration when the courier arrived. He put the note in his pocket without reading it. A few hours later, he was mortally wounded in the first great American victory of the war. The note was later found in his pocket, still unopened.
The Business Consequences of Communication Failures
Communication failures rarely change the course of history but they can still have devastating consequences. A 2017 study conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that up to a third of all projects fail due to poor communications. A 2019 Mitel study found that businesses lose an average of $11,000 per employee per year due to ineffective or inadequate communication.
An efficient business communication system is critical for companies in today’s knowledge-based economy — particularly now that huge chunks of the workforce are operating remotely. The Journal of Communication estimates we spend up to two-thirds of our workday engaged in communications that will impact the tactical and strategic direction of the business.
Here are just a few of the ways inadequate communication platforms can introduce risk and inefficiency into your organization:
Limited Functionality. Out-of-date systems weren’t designed to handle the communication and collaboration requirements of today’s increasingly mobile and remote workforces. You’re at a competitive disadvantage if your employees are unable to utilize multiple communication and collaboration features, such as voice, video, text, chat, conferencing, file sharing and screen sharing. In a 2020 Digital Workplace survey, 86 percent of respondents said the lack of collaboration tools can lead to workplace failures.
Lost Productivity. Communication has a direct impact on productivity. Inaccurate, inadequate or delayed communications can make it impossible for employees and teams to complete tasks on time and within budget. Poorly coordinated projects can result in duplication of efforts, overlooked tasks and cost overruns. Communication barriers cost the average organization $62.4 million per year in lost productivity, according to a study by the Grossman Group.
Increased Maintenance. Maintaining older systems creates unnecessary challenges. Manufacturers typically only support PBX servers, routers, cables, gateways, phones and other gear for about 10 years. After that, it’s your responsibility to find replacement parts and other components. That will mean searching after-markets and alternative sources where prices are at a premium and the quality may be questionable. You may also have trouble finding a technician who is capable of maintaining the system.
Reduced Customer Satisfaction. Customers today want the ability to contact companies through a variety of channels, including phone, text, email and social media. Companies that provide multichannel support perform better across key customer experience metrics such as faster response times and higher customer satisfaction scores. According to Gartner, 64 percent of people rate customer experience as more important than price.
Poor Morale. Inefficient or unreliable communication systems take a toll on employees, leading to friction, frustration and confusion. In the Mitel study, almost half of the survey respondents also said that inefficient communications and collaboration had created friction with coworkers and with other departments.
Would the world be different today if Colonel Rall had read that note? That’s impossible to know. However, we can say with certainty that inefficient communication systems can sink a company. Give us a call to discuss implementing a communications system that can drive your business strategy.