When the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing in a business organization, it can lead to lost productivity, duplication of effort, poor customer service and a host of other problems that can cause significant financial damage. Understanding common ways in which business communication breaks down will help you take steps to improve your customer and employee interactions and avoid unnecessary problems.

Communication Errors

There are many different ways in which business people communicate with each other, but doing so incorrectly can lead to problems for one or both parties. Many times this is the result of instructions that don't detail all necessary information.

For example, you might tell a supplier you need your materials delivered by Wednesday, but if you don’t specify you need them by 10 a.m., you might not receive them until late in the afternoon, causing your second shift to be idle and customer orders to go out late. If you ask to receive documents electronically without specifying how, you might receive them in the wrong format. Train your employees to be as specific as possible when communicating, following up phone calls with confirmation emails and reviewing the who, what, where, when, why and how of every message.

Sales and Production

Sales and production departments must work together to ensure proper coordination of order fulfillment. If your sales manager books a large contract for next month but doesn’t inform the production manager until the week before the order is due, you might not have the credit to order supplies or time to make the order. This can result in not only losing the order, but also having your customer go to a competitor.

Customers and Suppliers

Extended working relationships with suppliers and customers are great -- until you get too comfortable with the routine and forget that even the slightest change can cause one party serious problems. For example, if one party changes fees or prices and announces the change on its website without contacting the other party and specifically pointing out the new terms, someone will end up angry. The customer might threaten to leave the supplier, or the supplier might cut off the customer. The sooner you can let partners know about any changes you’re planning, such as shutting down temporarily for repairs or inventory or changing delivery methods or credit terms, the less likely one party will be left in a difficult situation.

Managers and Employees

A key frustration of employees and a source of decreased productivity for managers is a lack of detailed job descriptions. Without a written job description, an employee might not perform work his supervisor thinks is his responsibility. If the employee was supposed to be tracking or recording workflow or financial information but doesn't realize that is the case, it might not be until the end of the quarter that a manager discovers the job has not been done. When an employee is denied a raise, bonus or promotion because she didn't perform an expected part of her job she did not think was in her description, she is more likely to quit. (Reference 2).