Are internal comms gatekeepers making your comms inaccessible?

Because a rock star ain’t a rock star if the backing band stinks.

Debra Helwig is the internal communications director at Pinion.

Lately, I’ve been having some medical issues. Never fun. Ick, in fact.

So you can imagine how tickled I was when I got a referral to one of the top doctors in the US in my needed specialty. Less than an hour’s drive from home, no less! I thought all my problems were solved. Great care from a brilliant physician, conveniently located. All would be well.

Unfortunately, no.

It’s true, Doctor X is fabulous. She’s brilliant. Top of her game. Amazing diagnostic skills, and even more, a compassionate beside manner. I love her, absolutely I do.

When I can get to her, that is. And there’s the problem.

Surrounding Doctor X is a vortex of apathy and bureaucratic red tape masquerading as office staff.

It’s simple stuff, too. Things that just don’t happen in a well-managed office. Things like:

  • When I go for an appointment, I sit in an exam room for three to four hours after my scheduled time, waiting to be seen. Inquiries are met with the response, “She’s worth the wait.”
  • An urgent call to request records is met with a flippant, “We don’t fax records. You have to wait until next Friday and we’ll mail them.” When I ask for other options, the clerk tells me, “I’m sorry, there are no other options.”
  • Emails sent to the doctor’s listed email address are not acknowledged nor is any response given.
  • Calls to speak with the nurse often result in a hold time of 30 to 45 minutes – before being put into voice mail. With no apology from the receptionist.

So far, I’ve put up with this insanity because the doctor IS a rock star. Genius in heels and a lab coat, with answers to a lot of my issues. But after my most recent (frustrating) visit, I’ve had just about enough and am starting to look for a new provider.

Because a rock star ain’t a rock star if the backing band stinks.

And there’s the lesson for all of us in internal communications. Just like my medical practice has its rock star doctor, you’ve got rock stars in your organizations. Truly brilliant minds with real answers to client questions and a passion for helping people.

But if your gatekeepers aren’t doing their jobs, you’re headed for trouble. Not as quickly as you would if your brilliant partners and staff weren’t so incredibly good at what they do. But eventually, there will be a breaking point, where the pain of getting to access to the right leader is greater than the benefit derived from their counsel.

The brilliance of a few great minds simply isn’t enough to keep clients for the long haul.

The true differentiator of a great company – the thing that keeps clients coming back again and again and referring over and over – is the honest care and sweat equity of a brilliant support team for your geniuses. A great backing band for your rock stars, helping your clients get the information they need day after day.

With that in mind, how long has it been since you did a top-to-bottom diagnostic on your organization’s client support? Where is internal communications helping – or hindering – these individuals in understanding what’s truly important to the organization and the client?  How are you amplifying the key elements of your culture and teaching those who can open (or close) doors internally and externally how to serve with grace and speed?

It’s up to you, internal communicator, to make sure these often-unsung-heroes in your company have the information and communications channels they need and know the culture well enough to make magic happen. You need to focus on these individuals – BEFORE you lose clients who love your work, but hate getting the runaround.

If it’s been a while, I strongly recommend you make a thorough evaluation of all the entry points into your organization. See how easy it is (or isn’t) for your clients to access the people they want to reach. Learn firsthand how happy, genuine, and willing your gatekeepers are to open the way for clients to get what they need. Then, examine how your internal communications strategy is supporting (or not!) these people, who probably don’t get a lot of attention or accolades, but actually hold the keys to the kingdom. If your gatekeepers know how to get clients connected with the right results at the right time, the organization can’t help but succeed.

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