We 'consumer test' communications using insights from linguistics and information design

We help our clients create better customer experiences by helping them improve the reading experience. For us, the 'reading experience' is an integral part of customer experience.  McKinsey agree. They say that 'consistent and clear communications are one of the most important elements of the customer experience.

We used our extensive knowledge of linguistics - how language works - and our research, our ethnographic experience and our forays into information design to develop a unique qualitative reading experience test that we call Syllabell.

  1. Poor communications clog up call centres, cause profit-draining customer attrition and create unnecessary and time-wasting stakeholder misunderstanding. Many of these problems can be fixed by clearer and more timely communication. Our Syllabell test shows organisations how they can communicate more clearly to improve customer experiences and improve organisational efficiency.
  2. The Syllabell test also shows our clients how to find the words to create emotional connections with their customers, making their brochures, mailers, letters and digital comms effective and empowering.
  3. Beyond words, we use principles of Information Design to show to how to draw attention to verbal and visual information and how to present it so it is understood and used.

 Use it for

  • Marketing collateral
  • Information sheets, posters and pamphlets
  • Correspondence - letters and statements
  • Claims, labels and messages
  • Newsletters
  • Direct marketing communications
  • Disclosure documents

Susan Bell Research has helped many Australian organisations improve their communications to their customers and stakeholders. 

Syllabell: written communications intensive diagnostic

  • We use this to test written communications such as mailerscorrespondence, instructions, Fact Sheets, edocuments of various kinds and regulatory documents such as disclosure*.
  • We watch how people use your documents, for example whether they use what we call 'hop, skip and jump' reading.
  • We give readers activities to do to test their understanding of the content and their ability to apply it to their own circumstances
  • We also discover the words and phrases that resonate with or empower these customers (and the ones that create distance and disempowerment)
  • We identify why problems occur and show you how to fix those problems.

Written communications audit

Who reads your written communications, what do they read and why?

  • For the audit, we measure readership and usage of your newsletterscorrespondence, instructions, Fact Sheets, and other documents / edocuments such as disclosure
  • Next, we identify reasons for reading or not reading on two key dimensions: motivation and confidence. For example, one document may have low readership because customers have low motivation to read it, or because they have little confidence in their own ability to understand it.
  • This analysis then shows us which documents have problems and the problems that needs to be addressed

Our making sense framework

We base our work on our 'making sense' framework, drawn from our training in linguistics, psychology and plain language. People interpret ('make sense of') their experiences emotionally and cognitively, through schemas and frames. Importantly we all have a drive to make things make sense. Our task as researchers is to identify these frames and how to change them.  Read more here.

 Who we do this for

Financial services organisations, service providers of all kinds, government agencies.

*We probably know more about disclosure for insurance, superannuation and investment than any other research agency.

Case Study  - making a concept make sense

A financial services organisation developed a new service for investors. This was a brand new concept. We used our linguistic and research expertise to test prototypes of the fact sheet and online application form to make sure that the potential investors knew what the service was for and how to use it. Because this idea was so new, investors came to the idea with a cognitive frame of expectations about the concept based on previous experience, which made them 'blind' to some of the important features. They didn't read it well because they thought they knew what it said. We showed our client how to restructure and reword the form and the fact sheet so that investors understood and valued the idea. The launch has been very successful.

Tags: Qualitative Research , Language, Making sense, correspondence, Fact Sheets, Disclosure, Information design, Written communications

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