“You still haven’t registered as a vendor in our system.” The representative’s very first words to me oozed with disdain and disrespect.
“I went to the link I was given and filled out all the information. I even got a confirmation back,” I replied.
“If you had registered with us, I’d be able to see you in our system.”
“OK, it sounds like something went wrong because I have registered. I even uploaded a 1099 to my account. How could I have done this if I hadn’t registered and gotten an account?”
“If you had registered, I’d be able to see you!”
Tip #1: Don’t start the conversation with an accusation. By starting out with hostility and an accusatory tone, you immediately put the other person on the defensive. Instead, begin by assuming that possibly they have done what they were asked to do, and something has either gone wrong with the process or with the communication about the process.
Tip #2: Don’t keep repeating the same phrase (or accusation). It is not helpful to the person to continually hear the same accusation over and over when obviously something has gone wrong. A better response would be: “I’m not sure why I’m not seeing you in the system. Let’s try to figure out what may have gone wrong.” By assuming that the person may actually be telling the truth and something might have gone awry, you show them respect and demonstrate an attitude of helpfulness to facilitate correction of the issue.
I tried a different tack: “I can go back in again and re-register, but will the system allow me to do that if I’m already in it?”
“What name did you register with?”
I told her my name.
“How do you spell it?”
I told her how to spell it.
“You’re not in the system.”
OK, we’re back to that again. After a couple more rounds of futile conversation, the topic of my company name came up. I told her what it is. This was met with instant rage.
“You didn’t TELL me that you registered with your company name! You said you registered with YOUR name! They’re trying to find you under YOUR name! You need to go back and tell them that you registered with your COMPANY name… not YOUR name!”
“Excuse me. All I did was go to the link I was provided and fill out the correct information in the correct boxes as they were presented to me. When the system asked for my company name, I entered it. I don’t know “how” the system registered me, or why you can’t find my name, even though it’s there in the “Contact Name” box. I don’t know how your system works.”
“Well, when I asked you for your name, I meant your company name!”
“Unfortunately, I don’t know what you meant… I only know what you said.”
Tip #3: Don’t assume the other person knows how your system works. If they have followed the directions on a computer screen and filled in boxes as they were presented, that person probably has no way of knowing how the system files that information – or what can (or cannot) be retrieved by the system’s users.
Tip #4: Be very clear when requesting information. If you want a company name, ask for the company name. Don’t ask for the person’s name, and then try to find that name in the company name box… then accuse the person of giving you the wrong information.
Isn’t it sad when bad things happen to good communications? The key here is that a miscommunication was obviously occurring… and miscommunications inadvertently happen all the time, don’t they? No one is at fault; they just sometimes happen.
But, what I have found to work in almost every situation is that if you forget all the other tips, please just remember this one:
Tip #5: Always treat others with respect and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not:
a) trying to be difficult;
b) too dumb to communicate properly with you – or to have followed prior directions correctly; or
c) lying about having done something they were previously asked to do.
Of course, sometimes it turns out that they are just trying to be difficult, or haven’t done what they were supposed to do. But often, that’s not the case. If we just keep this one simple tip in mind, it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking to customers, co-workers, family members or anyone else… our attitude of respect will come through loud and clear, and any miscommunications and mistakes will be cleared up with a lot more goodwill and a lot less “good grief!”