I used to be terrified of flying. Getting on a plane was incredibly stressful and every minute from the time I left to go to the airport until I landed safely on the ground was agonizing. The job I had at the time didn’t require extensive travel, but it did require some and seeing as I didn’t want to quit my job because of the fear, I got on the plane.
I will never forget one flight back home from Toronto. We are on the plane and had already backed out of gate. We seemed to be sitting there longer than normal and my stress levels were rising. After a few minutes that seemed like hours, the pilot’s voice broke the silence. He said “Sorry for the delay folks. We’re just running our tests and the engine on the right side didn’t start properly. But don’t worry. We’ll just shut everything down, restart and then should be good to go. It’s kind of like rebooting your computer. Nothing to worry about.”
Nothing to worry about? Who was he kidding! How was this anything like rebooting a computer?! When the plane finally started taxiing down the runway, I wanted to scream “Get me off this plane!” The next 2.5 hours were terrifying. I gripped the arm rests the entire time and imagined every little change in noise as a sign the right engine had shut down completely and we were all doomed!
I was reminded of this story recently during some discussions around communication during a recent customer service workshop I was delivering for a client. As the experts in our field, we are very comfortable with the ins and outs of our business and because of that expertise, forget that the person we are interacting with, our customer, doesn’t share that same level of expertise. Because we have that knowledge and comfort level, we sometimes deliver information in a casual or off-hand way, that leaves our customer feeling confused, frustrated or in my case more scared than I was to begin with. Other times, we may start using industry lingo or terminology, which also leaves our customer’s feeling confused and perhaps even like they are being talked down to.
You’ve all heard of the importance of tone of voice and body language when delivering a message. They are important, but so are words. Think … then speak.