05 October 2011

Customer service? When will they ever learn...

I recently tried a service, offered by someone who knocked on my door one day, that meant my wheelie bin was disinfected after it had been emptied. The basic job was OK, but the fact I had to up-end it to drain the fluid left inside meant I ended up with more work, not less. What has this got to do with technical communication, you say?

Well, the reply I got to my (if I say so myself) polite message expaining that I no longer needed their services was rude, to say the least. Not only rude, it was full of spelling and grammatical errors – not that a perfect command of written English is a required skill for wheelie bin cleaning, I admit. The errors I could ignore...but the tone I couldn’t.

I have no idea whether the man replying to me intended to be as offensive as he was – although a subsequent message leaves me to believe he did – but that was certainly his effect.

Does it matter? Maybe, maybe not. It depends how many people read the review I’ve posted on Yell before engaging his services. It depends on whether he decides to advertise on the local directory services, which also provide the facility to leave reviews. It depends on whether any of my neighbours who were also approached about the service but declined ask us how we found it.

He could have said the same things in a much more pleasant way. A way that would have encouraged me to refer him on to someone else – something I try to do, especially if I can’t use someone’s service myself.

It’s something my mother used to say to me when I was a child: “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”

We all need to learn from this – the tone of your communication is every bit as important as the content. Although this is an extreme example, the concept affects every communicator, technical or not.

His parting shot was that he did not want customers like me (paraphrased here) – with a bit of luck, having annoyed me enough for me to put finger to keyboard and write said reviews, he won’t get too many!

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