Sunday, March 1, 2009

If only you were a little smarter

My dog, Samson, has this look. He sort of cocks his head, twitches one of his ears and blinks rapidly. His look suggests that if only I were a little smarter that I would know what he wants - the beef, the crab leg, the puppy treat. Name it. I can spot that look a mile away. In my dog, it's nothing short of hysterical. We chuckle when we see it. In people however, it's not nearly as endearing.

I have thought about this post for quite a while and it wasn't until this week when I had a few exchanges where I spotted the same look -tone - attitude - this time in people, not my dog. I scheduled my annual eye exam and upon arrival was handed paperwork to complete. The instructions included a sort of hand-waving, dismissive motion and a plastic cover sheet with directions. If you have read much of what I write, you may have some sense that I seldom, if ever, follow directions completely. I don't DO forms, especially when I don't have vision insurance and they frankly have no business knowing some of the information they were asking. Well, that went over well. I received a lot of eye rolling, deep sighing and annoyed glances with coworkers. If only I were a little smarter, I would know that I am inconveniencing them.

I had a host of other customer service experiences to completely counter my eye exam debacle. But with each interaction, I silently compared it to the eye exam. If only you were a little smarter isn't tangible - the attitude, the tone, the annoyance, the irritation. It is however highly recognizable, visible and real to the recipient. That experience will stay with me for a while.

In Human Resources, we receive a lot of rote, reoccurring questions. We do our best to outline them online, on our bulletin board, on benefit handouts and job application instructions. But regardless of what information is available, some people call. And call. And call. But every time we answer a call or a question, we can never imply if only you were a little smarter. Not in tone, or direction or instruction. We serve people. The service we provide comes through not only in actions but tone, attitude and delivery. Watch for this if you can. I would love to hear your thoughts.


Steve Boese said...

I really love posts that make you think hard about what you are doing, and this one certainly does just that. I run into this quite a bit as a 'tech guy', the desire to want to blame the users of the system when they get confused, make errors, or just keep asking the same questions again and again. The truth is, if the system were more user friendly, if online help was clear and readily available, and you had done a better job with training and follow up, maybe there would not be so many problems and questions. It is easy to want to 'blame' the customer, and harder to take more responsibility, but as you rightly point out, it is necessary to take more ownership of the issues. Great post, Maven.

Lisa Rosendahl said...

You made me stop and think early on a Monday morning (darn!) not only about my HR staff, but about myself. It probably isn't "if only you were a little smarter" it is more like, "if only you read the information, email, newletter, website that we gave you." I will be watching this week.

HR Maven said...

Thanks Steve. Every time I answer a question, I am mindful that it may be the first time the recipient may be hearing it.

Lisa, thanks for stopping by so early. Regardless of how many different ways we supply the info, some people just need to call.

It's why we are in business, eh?

Happy Monday.

Crystal Peterson said...

You hit the nail on the head with this one. Great reminder....especially on a Monday morning when I've already answered three such questions. As Lisa mentioned, "I'll be watching this week" - tone, attitude and delivery.

Laurie said...

Tone and body language are so important. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to strangle someone for speaking to me in the wrong tone...

...and I don't even want to think about how guilty I am of speaking in that tone to other people.

Great post!