Donald B. Stephens is a 30-year senior customer service engineer with the Xerox Corporation. In this post, he asks why field service professionals can’t communicate, well, a little more professionally.
“I need u two g o their rite now. NO goofin off @ all NOW!!!”
No, this is not a game to see how many mistakes you can find in the message. But it is a short quiz. If this were a message from a field service manager to an employee, via any of the ways we communicate electronically these days, what would you say was the sender’s greatest sin?
While the writer in me filters out the mistakes, my inner field service rep recognizes the author as a manager with no tact. We all rely on text and email to communicate, but for some, tact and respect have gone the way of the pager.
I often compare this problem to the anonymity and safety people feel behind the wheel of a car. People can’t see the reaction of those who read their words, so the temptation to be blunt or bold is often overwhelming. And when that happens, they become what I call “tirade texters,” every message reader’s worst nightmare.
What tirade texters don’t realize is their bad habits affect everything they write. Our business is increasingly conducted through the written word, and what we write is even more important than what we say. Don’t let bad writing habits offend customers or employees. These three rules can help keep you from becoming a dreaded tirade texter.
Rule 1. Do not send click ‘send’ if you are angry, upset or in a funk.
I made this mistake three years ago. My company had recently adopted a new technology that put someone in another country in charge of our workflow. I was fed up with the system and typed a snarky reply to a message I had received from a dispatcher. The moment I hit “send” to our entire support team, I knew I’d made a horrible mistake.
As punishment, I had to write an apology letter, beg for mercy from corporate HR and go on three months’ disciplinary probation for something that could easily have been avoided. If you are like me and feel the need to respond to a message that gets your goat, then write it — and wait until you’ve had a chance to cool off. Reread your reply. Chances are you’ll end up deleting the message and starting over. Emotions cloud our sense of discretion, which is why we yell the things we do at the people who cut us off on the road.
Rule 2. Develop the re-reading habit.
Even if you are calm, cool and collected, and feel confident you’ve written the definitive thesis on field service, reread your message before you click “send.” A missed word or punctuation mark can change the entire flavor of your communiqué. Without a reread, an intended message like, “I hate missing your phone calls,” becomes, “I hate your phone calls.” No amount of corrective software will catch the error.
Rule 3. Phone a friend.
I recommend having someone else read an important message before you send it. Professional writers understand that editors and proofreaders are there to help catch mistakes and clarify thought. You might be so focused on conveying a message that you don’t realize you’ve just insulted the entire company.
No matter what the level of your writing, you can still be concise, tactful and considerate when it comes to written communication. Don’t let the texting tyrant that is in all of us have the last word.