Great excitement for me this week as I have finally bought myself a netbook computer so that I can make the most of all the time I spend on trains, travelling to and from my clients’ offices. The process of buying it brought me into contact with several sources of communication about these machines and showed me once again how ‘getting it right’ when it comes to communication can have sich wide-ranging benefits.

My first stop was a well-known (but nameless) department store. I knew what I wanted to be able to do with my machine, but I didn’t know what the options were or what would be most suited to my needs. So that was my starting point. Unfortunately, the sales assistant I spoke to had a different view of our conversation and our two approaches were not to be successfully brought together. Whilst I don’t doubt that he knew his stuff as far as the technology was concerned, he failed to really listen to me telling him I was overwhelmed about all the apparent options. To be fair, I think he did try to modify what he was saying, but without checking in with me that I understood. Despite me asking questions to clarify what he meant, I was still non the wiser. At times I didn’t even understand enough of what he was saying to know where to start. In the end, I said a polite thank you and walked away.

So I tried again with another (nameless) retailer, this time a more specialised one. This time the guy I spoke to obviously understood that I wasn’t pretending when I said I didn’t know very much. Throughout our conversation he introduced new terms, but every time, he asked explicitly whether I knew what that meant  – neither assuming I was an idiot if I didn’t or assuming I felt comfortable enough to speak up when he was in full flow. Every time I admitted I didn’t really know what he meant, he took the time to explain the terminology and make sure I got it before moving on.

On the face of it, this is a story about customer service. But it also shows us just how important the element of communication is to everyday tasks that many people take for granted. By listening and responding to the actual situation and actively gathering feedback, the second guy was far more successful at communicating with me about netbooks.

The end result? I bought my machine from the second retailer, of course, and so far it’s been just what I need!

Until next time


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