Tech Soft Skills Part 6

November 22, 2004


By: Matt Michel

Why can’t she understand, the tech thought. He was frustrated. He was trying to explain a problem to the homeowner, but this lady didn’t get it.

The tech knew he wasn’t the world’s most eloquent person, but what more was there to say? He looked at his feet. The homeowner made him uncomfortable. She was getting angry… at him! He started to explain it again, but why bother. She wasn’t going to understand. His attempt to say more broke down into a mumble.

Didn’t she know that he had other calls to make? He couldn’t stand around all day repeating the same thing over and over again. Why couldn’t she understand?

Finally, out of sheer frustration he said, “I don’t know what else you want me to say. Look, I’ve really got to get going. I’ve got other calls. Why don’t you get your husband and I’ll go over it with him?”

The moment he said it, he knew he did something else to tic her off. What, he wasn’t sure, but she practically started foaming at the mouth as she stormed off.

Oh well, he thought. You just can’t figure some people.

And that was the last time anyone from the technician’s company set foot inside that house. Within a few weeks, after the incensed homeowner had time to spread vitriol about her experience over the neighborhood rumor mill, it became the last time anyone from the technician’s company set foot inside any of the houses on that street, or the street to the north, or the street to the south.

“You can’t believe how they treated me,” she said to an audience at the Tuesday night neighborhood bunko game, “He wouldn’t look me in the eye. He kept muttering under his breathe and then – you’re not going to believe this – and then he told me to get my husband because it was too complicated for a woman to understand!”

“Nooo,” says her bunko partner, “Did he really say that?”

“I swear!”

Did she exaggerate and embellish the story? Absolutely. Did she misinterpret the technician? No doubt about it. It is fair? Nope. Can anything be done to fix matters? Not now. The company’s dead beyond resurrection in that neighborhood.

The technician never knew he did anything wrong. He knew things weren’t going well, but was completely unaware of his own role. He didn’t know that when he looked to his feet the homeowner interpreted it as a sign of dishonesty.

He didn’t know that his anxiety to get to the next call was seen as a desire to flee the scene of a crime. He didn’t know he was mumbling or that his uncertainty in communication was seen as a red flag of deceit. He never would have imagined that his attempt to try and communicate with the woman’s husband, with whom he hoped to find a common ground of knowledge for an explanation was seen as a direct insult.

He didn’t know and because he didn’t know then, he won’t know in the future. Sometime in the next five, ten, twenty, or hundred calls he will do the same thing all over again, poisoning yet another neighborhood for his employer.

The technician would never claim to be a communicator. He’s not one. He’s a technician. He works with his hands, not his voice. Yet, he does work with his voice. His job does require good communication skills because his job requires that he interact with people.

The scary part of this story is how many times it gets repeated. As silly as it sounds, I’m convinced that one of the primary contributors to the poor image.

Next: Simple Communication Tips

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2003 Matt Michel

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