Communication Gaps - Horrible Holly

Tags: books

Initiating a new team member requires two different flavors of education: technical background that they need to accomplish good work, and social background that helps them fit in to the company. Often the latter happens through stories: the oral history of the company, and often the most interesting and amusing of those stories are the tales of terrible customers.

Amusing and correct are always synonymous.

Once you label someone as a “difficult customer,” you are likely to see that customer as difficult thereafter. You’ll be quicker to find evidence of difficult behavior to support your label, rather than evidence to support more positive attributes. You’ll also be more likely to describe that person to others as a difficult customer rather than as a person with whom you have had a difficult interaction.
— Communication Gaps and How To Close Them, Chapter 7

Not only does this sour a potential friendship between new techs and old customers, it’s likely a matter of misplaced blame. Is Horrible Holly really so horrible, or is she just stressed out because the system sucks, and she doesn’t receive a vital report on schedule about half of the time, and the ticketing system doesn’t tell her if anyone saw her request, and asking for an updated status often results in a tech snapping at her?

Verizon loves you!

The team members decided to modify their own responses to Holly, agreeing to give her the freedom to tout her ideas and vent her problems… Over time, her aggressiveness diminished, and then vanished; in addition, she started becoming attentive to the pressures they were facing and, for the first time, empathized with their challenges.
— Communication Gaps and How To Close Them, Chapter 4

Maybe you aren’t yet ready to read Communication Gaps and How to Close Them. We’ll dig in a little more next time, and I’ll provide a two question quiz that’ll help you determine if it’s a good fit for you.