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Can You Hear Me Now?

October 4, 2023 By The Siren Of Support Leave a comment

The lack of effective communication leads to frustration. 

Frustration leads to misunderstandings, heated interactions, and dead ends. 

Communication is dependent not only on the speaker’s competency of their expression but also the ability of the recipient to accept and understand what is being said. Without one, or the other a barrier to effective communication is created. 

Years ago when my son was just entering school it was brought to my attention that he was difficult to understand. I had no issue comprehending his words. I spoke “Xander”. Our other family members and friends would make comments about his speech and the difficulty to which he was able to be understood. Maybe it was the mama bear in me, or maybe I was just delusional, but I thought his speech was fine. 

I knew that “Go lopping to get luperman tuf” meant that he wanted to go to the store and buy Superman toys. His jumbled backward sentences sounded like puzzles to others but were unconsciously pieced together somewhere between my ears and my brain to make complete sense. Even now I forget how much his speech was affected until a random memory pops up in my photos and I have to ask, “what the heck was he saying”?

In a manner of a few sessions, his speech was becoming intelligible. The temper tantrums and meltdowns occurred less often. The frustration caused by the inability to effectively communicate his needs, wants, and four year old demands ebbed, while the words began to flow. 

Failure to be understood, or to understand sets the stage for disaster and catastrophic interactions. 

How can we as service providers ensure that we are communicating in a clear, accurate, and comprehensible manner? That our customers understand us, and we understand them?

Clarify and Repeat: Something as simple as repeating a customer’s order can avoid headaches, product returns, and lost time and money. “Ok Chip, So that’s a 2019 ½ ton with four-wheel drive? Looks like I have that 6L80 in stock!” Chip tells you it’s an 8 speed. Confirming and clarifying the information you are receiving allows for correction and lets the customer know you are actively listening and invested in the interaction. 

When discussing policy or setting expectations repeat yourself and have the customer acknowledge. “So Jim, I will have that job done on November 3rd and ready for pick up at 3:00pm.” Before finalizing the conversation, repeat at least one more time the date and time the job is expected to be complete. 

By repeating and clarifying you are providing ample opportunity for the recipient to ask questions, confirm understanding, and protecting yourself from misconstrued language. 

Do Not Assume: Just because Angela has always brought her vehicles to your shop for repair, as did her dad, her dad’s dad and her brother, take the time to explain details such as warranty coverage, company policies that affect customers, and general product information frequently. Memories fade and customer interpretations alter as time, situation, and need arise. 

Follow Up: I am a huge fan of verbal conversation as the tone of the written word can easily be misconstrued. Details, however, can simply be missed or easily forgotten once the call is over. Follow up with an email, hand the customer a brochure, send a text, but always provide documentation that allows for clarification, and covers your butt if there’s any escalation. 

The ability to productively communicate is what sets humans apart from other species and allows us to form relationships, set expectations and boundaries, and voice our needs and desires. 

After years of speech therapy, a stranger never would have guessed there was an issue at the beginning. Training, assistance and consistent feedback to your service reps will guarantee that your customers are receiving information in a language they understand. 

“Brush your teeth” continues to be heard as “yes, you can play one more video game”, but that is a battle (and an article) for another day.

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