I received a call from an old business associate recently who wanted to talk about a piece in Today’s Machining World. It was a pleasant enough conversation, but all I could think about was his voice. He sounded so old.
I realized that I make so many judgments on what people sound like and how they choose their words. Last night my wife wasn’t feeling well and she was expressing her sinus misery not in what she said, but in her intonation. When kids walk into the classroom, a teacher sets the mood and tone with the first utterance.
We are wired and conditioned from birth to catch the meaning of sounds—not necessarily the words—but the sounds.
A business does itself harm if it neglects its phone greeting. I despise the canned greeting that is endemic today. You’ve alienated me the moment I hear it. But just as grating to me is listening to a tone-deaf human being. I think most people do not know how they sound on the phone. They miss the vibe they give off.
Speaking and listening skills can be taught. A business that cares about its clients’ reactions can coach its team. A doctor can rehearse her bedside demeanor. I’ll never forget observing a doctor rushing into a surgical waiting room and virtually shouting to an anxious family, “We found cancer!” There’s a better way.
I believe that business gravitates to energy and joy. If you compare the happy voices you hear when you take a Southwest Airlines flight to the bored and sullen voices on a U.S. Air or United flight, you can see part of why Southwest thrives and the others struggle.
Setting a mood and tone is ultimately each person’s responsibility in developing relationships. I am going to make a conscious effort to listen very critically to myself and ask my associates to give me honest feedback on the vibe I give off to them.
Question: Does a canned phone greeting and menu irritate you? Does it make you want to hang up the phone?