The summer before my senior year in high school I took a job working as a courier and odd-jobs man at a local electrical company. It sounded like a cush job and much better than forty hour weeks on an assembly line at the same manufacturing company I had worked for the previous five summers ( I can assemble and disassemble a gas nozzle like no one’s business).

What I assumed would be an easy summer of money making turned into one of the more difficult and challenging times in my young 17-year-old life. This job exposed several areas of weakness that would crop up even into my professional career. Aside from the hours of laughter I provided to anyone listening on the company’s CB radio dispatch as I tried to find my way around central and southern Ohio with no GPS and only a physical map as my guide. It became apparent to all that I needed to work on taking down proper directions and asking questions. Essentially, there were gaps in my communication skills.

Some valuable lessons learned from that experience were:

  1. Continue to ask questions until I had complete confidence of what I was being asked to do. I found that pride and fear were the significant hinderances here.
  2. Write down everything! Consequently, carry a pen and notebook at all times.
  3. It takes three months to learn how to back a trailer 🙂

Communication gaps are the destroyer of excellent customer service and generally the beginning of a failed relationship. In an article titled, What do customers hate most about bad customer service.” Nearly half of those surveyed were most frustrated when they had to explain their dilemma again and again to multiple agents.

Nearly half of those surveyed were most frustrated when they had to explain their dilemma again and again to multiple agents.

Recently I was on a design discovery call with a client where we were going to discuss revisions he wanted to make to his layout. The client brought up a note he had written and sent to us explaining his reasons for the change and the new direction and focus he wanted to take. It was a joy killer to inform him we had not read that note. You could feel the enthusiasm and excitement drop as he had to repeat once again what he had already shared once before. After the call ended, I was tempted to go on a witch hunt to find the guilty party. However, I was equally guilty. I failed to listen to my gut before the call began. I sensed there was more to the story than what the notes in our system provided. I should have been more diligent to find the answer. Even willing to postpone the call until we had what we needed to make it a successful and productive meeting.

Here are some things to consider when passing or receiving information:

  1. Take notes or have a second person in the meeting to record all that is discussed.
  2. Take note of the mood as well. Are they apprehensive? Are there “knowledge” issues that require training? Are they irritated? Is there a lot of excitement?
  3. Have there been promises made? These are critical to document and ensure follow up occurs.
  4. Have post call meetings with team members to discuss what was said. This process is crucial as each member will key in on specific things that align with their skill set. A designer will hone in more on the aesthetics and feelings conveyed where a manager will be more in tune to timeline, training, and process.
  5. Voice trumps text. When in doubt pick up the phone or meet in person if possible.

I recall a favorite saying I picked up from an attorney who I worked with at my first full-time job. He was the most meticulous and cautious person I ever met. “Belt and Suspenders” he would repeat. Meaning, go the extra mile, take the extra precaution to ensure everything needed to succeed is present and accounted.

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Photo of Brian Biddle Brian Biddle

For the past 14 years, Brian has served as lead designer and art director for LexBlog. He works directly with the product team to provide design and UX/UI guidance for the tools that power the worlds largest legal network.