ADVO Group interview with Jean Crew, Training and Development Coordinator, ADVO Group


Jean Crew has experience in training going back over twenty years including working for a range of household brands and businesses. Working as the Training and Development Co-ordinator at ADVO Group, Jean is working to ensure that the customer service ADVO Group prides itself on remains second to none. We caught up with Jean to hear exactly what she has been up to at ADVO Group, the importance of every phone call, the key principles of communications training and much more.

 Outline the work you do at ADVO Group

I came onboard with the business at the beginning of 2012  as a freelancer to provide training support for the Telemarketing Team primarily. That has now blossomed into a permanent part-time position working as the Training & Development Co-ordinator under the Operations Team to offer training support to the business .

Why is this such as important area for the business as a whole?

I think training and development and the ongoing continued development of staff is key. I believe businesses miss out if they don’t continue to professionally develop their staff. Staff are the biggest asset of any business and making sure they have the key knowledge and skills they require and that they are motivated and engaged is really important to business success. It adds to core business objectives and means businesses have the potential to reach those objectives quicker. Providing clarity regarding what you want someone to do and the standard to which you want them to do it is vital and training and development has a really important role to play in that.

What can customers expect when they pick up the phone and call ADVO Group?

We’d like to think that here at ADVO Group, customer care is at the heart of this business. It’s at the core of how we want to be perceived by the market. In a very competitive market, the level of customer care that  ADVO provides is exceptional and sets us apart. When a customer rings into ADVO Group, we would like to believe they receive the message that they are valued and important regardless of their standing, whether they be a CEO, Managing Director, or an individual ringing in to talk about their particular policy or plan.

Do you believe that communicating with a customer over the phone is the most valuable communication channel as opposed to say email, and if so why so?

Communicating with customers as a whole is key in business today and learning how to communicate using all the different methods that are available, so I wouldn’t put any one communication method any higher that another.

The message and what you communicate should be consistent regardless of the platform so if you’re talking to someone on the phone, they get the same feel about you, and through you the business, as they would if you communicated through email. People believe that emails don’t convey personality, feelings or emotion but I think they do. I believe that emails, phone, letter, whatever you’re using, needs to say the same about your business  – you are valued and you matter  – and that needs to come across in every client communication regardless of the method that things are communicated by.

Would it be beneficial for any company to initiate the type of communications training that you provide?

Knowing how to communicate with your customers is absolutely key for any business. It’s really important that we don’t lose sight of the human aspect of communication as so much communication becomes reliant on technology. To pick up the phone and actually speak to someone, let alone the effort to actually go and see somebody, is not always necessary these days. We need to make sure that we maintain a good level of knowledge regarding what customers want, what they need and how they want to be communicated with. For any business, the message that you put out to your customers, from the smallest phone call asking for advice to a really complex piece of negotiation, should be consistent and I think customers have the right to expect that.

What do you think are the most important lessons to be learned from communications training?  Can you provide three key principles? 

The three things that I would say are, firstly, remember that you are talking to a human being. These people have busy lives, they have calls on their time, they have their own expectations as to what they want from you as well as what you want from them so it’s very important that at all times, you maintain that human aspect and element. You appreciate the ‘invisible pressure’ that there may be on that person, and also what you may be feeling, but you don’t let that affect the quality of your communication. So the human aspect is one thing.

The second thing I would say is clarity of communication. Communication is a two-way thing, it takes two people to communicate and when it’s phone or email reliant, clarity can get lost because so many of the messages we receive when we communicate are from visual stimuli: what we see and how we hear it, how it is perceived. When you send an email or a letter you need to bear in mind that the receiver can’t see you, they can’t hear how  you  are saying what you are communicating so clarity is absolutely key.That would be number two.

Number three would be to make sure that communications are necessary. I think a lot of things are communicated that don’t need to be communicated in such a verbose or complicated way. Along with clarity, its about keeping to the message and not allowing things to become any bigger or indeed any smaller than they need to be. Say what you need to say, say it clearly, and remember you’re speaking to a person.

What would be the next step for employees in their training following on from communications training? 

The communications training here at ADVO was particularly focused on phone communications, giving the best possible service that we can. When a customer calls in, what is that customer’s experience like and making sure that regardless of who they get through to, they receive the same standard of treatment. The message we want to get across is that ‘you are valued’ . Moving on from that, we need to make sure that we carry this message consistently through all methods of communication, be that face-to-face presentations, email or sending out a letter. It needs to  be consistent so that regardless of how someone interacts with ADVO Group, they get the same feeling and type of message, regardless of the method of communication. We want everybody that we communicate with to say ‘I felt valued by that business’. The next logical step following on from the phone training would be to move on to face-to-face training. That’s something that the business is looking at at the moment, introducing in the Spring focused presentation training.

How does the industry that ADVO Group sits in tie in with the industries you have trained in before? 

I think communications is communications and although the message varies depending on the business or market you’re working in, there are basic foundations about communicating that apply regardless to the sector. I think its absolutely necessary that regardless of the type of business you’re in or the type of product you’re selling, you remember the key facts referred to earlier: that you’re talking to a human being, that you need to get across what you need to say and that it needs to be communicated clearly – I don’t think the business or sector you work in actually brings anything to bear on that. There are certain areas or businesses where communications can rely more heavily on technology than the human aspect, but particularly for ADVO Group,  we are about people and we need to remember that in the way we choose to communicate. If somebody bothers to pick up the phone and speak to you then they want to communicate in a way other than email so it’s important to recognise that and take your lead from the customer rather than imposing your preferred method of communication on them. For all businesses, regardless of sector, communications remains key.