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Get It Done Right the First Time

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Getting things done correctly the first time saves money, boosts efficiency and improves customer service.  One important behavior that service professionals should get right is their ability to speak clearly and avert misunderstandings.  Potential business deals can go sour when miscommunication arises.

Here is a case in point.  While speaking at a recent association meeting, I conveyed the phenomenon of distinguishing similar sounding consonants over the phone.  I explained, for example, how a telephone did not accurately transmit the subtle differences between the letters “S” and “F”.

One of the attendees immediately jumped out of his seat and shouted “Now I know why!”  The room in which we were meeting fell silent as everyone’s attention was drawn to him.  I halted my presentation and asked this excitable attendee to share his epiphany with the group.

He related an event from the previous week in which his administrative assistant had made an appointment for him to meet with a prospect on the sixth of that month.  However, when he arrived at the appointment, the prospect was obviously upset, believing their appointment was to be on the fifth.  This attendee shared with us his embarrassment and regret for showing up a day late due to a minor detail.  The misunderstanding had damaged their business relationship.

The words “fifth” and “sixth” have a subtle and audible difference, depending on how they are pronounced.  These two words sound quite similar.  A service professional who regularly speaks on the telephone should know that similar sounding consonants be qualified by asking “Is that “fifth” as in five or “sixth” as in six?”  This extra effort ensures the accuracy of details.

Other similar sounding consonants include the letters “B” and “D”, “N” and “M”, and “T” and “P”.  Investing a few extra seconds to ask, “Is that “N” as in Nancy or “M” as in Mary?” can help avert future problems.

Asking questions, to verify a message, is a constructive behavior that builds rapport and clarifies potential misunderstandings.  Why are questions so powerful?  It’s because asking questions demonstrate that we care enough to get things right.  In addition, when we ask questions, we are placed into the role of listener, which gives us an opportunity to convey therapeutic and attentive listening skills.

Another key listening skill is mental energy to prevent the La La Land mind drift that can occur if complacency and rationalization set in.  People tend to rationalize when they seek self-satisfying but incorrect reasons for their behavior.

Innovative company owners raise the bar and expect more from their employees to ensure that customer messages are heard, qualified and understood.

Steve Coscia, CSP

Posted In: ACCA Now, Management

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