Specialised research to help organisations communicate clearly

Clear communication that is at the heart of the best customer experiences.  According to McKinsey, 'consistent and clear communications are one of the most important elements of the customer experience.

For organisations, poor communications clog up call centres, cause profit-draining customer attrition and create unnecessary and time-wasting stakeholder misunderstanding. For consumers, poor communications can lead to problems such as under-insurance or unsuitable investments.

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

We have two 'Sense' services:

  1. An audit of the organisations' key written communications audit to assess how effectively the organisation is communicating.

  2. The Syllabell test for specific pieces of communication written. This is an intensive diagnostic research exercise which shows organisations how to communicate more clearly.

Written communications audit

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

  • First, 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

Syllabell: written communications intensive diagnostic

We brought our extensive knowledge of linguistics - how language works - and our research and ethnographic experience to develop a unique 'sense' test.

  • We use this to test written communications such as correspondence, instructions, Fact Sheets, and other documents / edocuments such as disclosure*. We then help make them clearer. 
  • We watch how people use your documents, for example whether they use what we call 'hop, skip and jump' reading.
  • We give them tasks and activities to do to test their understanding of the content and their ability to apply it to their own circumstances
  • We identify why reading or usage problems occur and show you how to fix those problems.

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 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. The launch has been very successful.

Tags: Semiotics, Qualitative Research , Communications, Laddering, Stakeholder Surveys, Language, metaphor analysis, Making sense, Participant observation, correspondence, Fact Sheets, Disclosure