I also debated on how to approach this topic because I don’t want this blog to turn political in nature and I’m concerned that parts of this discussion might stray near the line or have a toe over it. Believe me, this is not my intention. We can discuss politics and social issues that become political another time in another venue.
So, here we go. I had an issue with one of my customers who booked their reservation through one of those Internet travel sites. I won’t mention the company or the details of the problem because, again, the point of this week’s post isn’t to slam a particular company and neither is the issue.
The situation I ran into was when I talked to the customer service representative, I had a difficult time understanding him. Why? Because he was a foreigner. Now before you start sending me nasty emails about immigration and hating foreigners take a breath, count to ten, and relax. Read the the rest of this post before you go off half cocked.
First off, I love foreigners. I’m an American and I have traveled to another country once. I took a trip to Mexico during an interim period in college. I loved the experience and I wish I could travel again to another land. So when I meet people from another country I almost impose myself on them to talk with me because I’ll bombard them with questions about their homeland. I love the accents, especially those from the United Kingdom. Allow me a moment’s diversion to mention that I think a woman speaking with a British, Irish, or Scottish accent is one of the sexiest things on this planet. (American Southern comes in a close second).
Anyway, back to my discussion. This is where communication between parties breaks down. I’m not saying you can’t speak a different language and I’m not saying you can’t have a unique accent. You can’t help where you learned to speak and the voice inflections you have. I understand that. However, if you are going to be in business and are going to be speaking to other people in a professional manner, you’d better learn how to make yourself understood.
When speaking to the CSR and he rattled off something of which I understood about half the words, I asked to speak to someone else. First, I apologized because I didn’t want to upset the guy. I told him I wasn’t criticizing but I needed to be able to communicate better with this company to solve the issue. I don’t think I was wrong. There are plenty of CSRs out there who can speak to me and I didn’t want to go round and round with him and become more frustrated.
As I was thinking about this topic I realized that I, too, have a problem with communication and not being understood sometimes. I’ve had discussions with my co-instructor at my martial arts club where he’s mentioned that sometimes I speak too quickly and the students are understanding either the point I’m making or the command I’m giving. So they just stand there and do nothing. I didn’t get upset but vowed to work on the way I speak.
This holds true for when I’m at work answering the phone. Now, let me put an asterisk here and, first apologize because I’m not putting down my job or the company. I love both, okay? But a lot of times our phone system su-, uh, is not the best quality. So when I answer the phone and say my name, many times people do not register my name as Steve. I’ve heard them call me Pete, Dean, and Dave. Since I’m the only male who works the desk, if somebody says Pete told me the room was $20 I know they mean me. (Also that they’re not telling the truth because I would never give a room away for $20) But, this is another example of realizing, when I answer the phone, I need to speak as clearly as I can.
Many people have problems getting people to understand surnames. Believe me, there are some wild last names out there and I’m fascinated by them. Mine is Brayton. Say it aloud. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s pronounced exactly as it looks. Bray-ton. However, even after I say it for people a number of times I’ll still get: Bryton, Brayson, Bryson. Are you kidding? Do you see an S anywhere in that seven letter combination?
My point is: people will form opinions on a business based on how their representatives communicate. Many businesses will base their opinions on hiring people based on how they speak during an interview. Especially a phone interview.
So think about your own way of speaking? Do you have any problems? How do you deal with them? Do you have any ideas on how to speak better? Let me know.
And if you tell me in an Irish accent, I guarantee I’ll listen more closely.
Seriously, read the phone book to me in that lilt and I’ll melt.