Saturday, April 18, 2009

Watch What You Say

1:06 pm Saturday, April 18th, phone in my right hand listening to the ring tone. Calling a downtown restaurant known for good lunches in the sleepy city of Jackson where on a Saturday half of downtown shutters the doors before the sun hits it's zenith. They answer...

"Hello, {Restaurant Name}"

"Hi, how late are you open?"

"One o'clock..." (big pause)

"Oh, you just closed?"

(Exasperated) "No, one o'clock AM!"

Geez, sorry for asking...

First impressions go a long way. Unfortunately many first impressions are made by wrong assumptions. The person on the other end of the line assumed that everyone knew they were open at night and therefore assumed that "one o'clock" could only mean "one am".

Imagine if I had called at 12:30 pm. I might have assumed that "one o'clock" meant "in thirty minutes". And they would have lost any chance at my business that night.

Simple little misunderstandings caused by assumptions that lead to lousy first impressions. If you want to make an assumption, assume that every caller is a first time caller to your business and knows little to nothing about you. How would you treat that caller differently?

Exactly! You'd give them more precise and useful information and avoid embarrassing and potentially costly misunderstandings.

Put a little time into your next staff training to evaluate faulty assumptions you might make when you answer the phone. Use this story to illustrate the point. It may be the least expensive best training you'll use this year.

-Phil

PS Full disclosure: It was my mom who made the call. She almost hung up at hearing "one-o'clock". Although she and her friends are going there tonight, her first impression will be a lasting one, and they're going to have to work really hard to overcome one seemingly innocuous answer and win her over.

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