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OR what can happen when you start off on the wrong foot and don’t do anything about it

Author: Nick Johnson

19 March 2015

It can happen to anyone... or at least I’d like to think so. You don’t bother to correct a simple mistake and the misconceptions compound upon each other until it becomes too embarrassing to point out the initial error.

In my case, I was too lazy to correct a hotel receptionist who assumed I’d come from New York, instead of our more venerable English version. Maybe it was the red eyes that did it.

Where might it all have ended? I can almost imagine a decades-long correspondence in which I waxed lyrical about all things Big Apple, when all the time I’d been waking up in a city that sleeps quite well, thank you very much. Ah, York. So good they named it once.

Facebook entry. Dear Hotel receptionist. I'd like to apologies for causing confusion at check in yesterday. When you asked where I was from, and then your brain inserted New into my response, I should have corrected you then and there and not taken the easy option of not doing so. Probably explains why you couldn't understand why even though I have lived there for 9 years, I have never been to the Empire State Building, or any other of the twenty tourist attractions you asked about. Why I don't have even a hint of an accent. I've never been in a yellow cab. And probably what surprised you most is that it is only a few hours travel.... And I didn't fly I came by train. This same misunderstanding happens quite a lot ....but normally my laziness does not lead to such a detailed discussion.

In its own small way, this incident goes to show what can happen if you start off on the wrong foot. In the world of financial services, we handle issues more complex than describing where we’ve just come from, so there’s a great deal more we can get wrong. And this underlines the importance of getting the initial communications absolutely spot on.

This is particularly true when pensions are the subject matter. In addition to the complexity, there’s a strong emotional involvement for pension scheme members, so it’s essential that It can happen to anyone... or at least I’d like to think so. You don’t bother to correct a simple mistake and the misconceptions compound upon each other until it becomes too embarrassing to point out the initial error. In my case, I was too lazy to correct a hotel receptionist who assumed I’d come from New York, instead of our more venerable English version. Maybe it was the red eyes that did it. they should be made fully aware why their trustees have made a particular decision and what it means for them. There may be little or no change for the individual member as the decisions are made at a scheme level, but no one likes being left in the dark, so it’s vital to inform them what’s going on at the earliest stage. By giving members a clear picture and an opportunity to ask questions prevents leaks, unfounded rumours, and a possibly disgruntled employee questions.

It’s no less important to communicate clearly and appropriately with trustees. Bulk annuity transactions involve a lot of ‘moving parts’ and can quickly move from one stage to the next. Post-sales communication is just as important as dialogue during the quotation stage – but if you start off on the wrong foot, you can find yourself battling to address misconceptions instead of concentrating on getting the right information across at the right time. This can be a difficult task in its own right, without back-tracking to clear up confusion.

Making sure no-one’s dazed and confused

At Aviva, we work hard to make sure simple misunderstandings don’t escalate into complex issues. This means taking an open approach to any issues and concerns that people may have. We always aim to produce plain-speaking articles which both provoke and invite questions and comments. We also want to further develop communications with our LinkedIn group which we set up. This provides a really good platform for professional conversations – please take a look.

Then there’s web content. This has to be clear, jargon-free and appropriate to the needs of its intended audience. Our website illustrates this point pretty well, I think – though you would probably be better qualified to judge it than I am. Again, I’d love to know what you think!

I’m hoping you’ll like what you see. But if you do have any negative feedback, you can always find me in my office here in New York.

You’d spotted the Led Zep references (maybe!) – now hear the songs. How could we not?

Communications breakdown

Dazed and confused

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