Communication has long been an interest of mine. I have spoken about it, written about it, and even fussed about it! I have often told audiences that most of us think we communicate well, when in fact, very often we do not. Too often we are communicating without thinking through what the other person needs and/or wants to know, for we are too focused on what we want to say! This is such an important topic that I could spend a year’s worth of blog posts on the different aspects of it. But I will limit myself to the communication particulars most on my mind at the moment.
Like many of my posts, I am interested in this subject today due to an experience. Today’s experience was with our cable/internet provider. I spent at least an hour today troubleshooting and fixing a problem created by ineffective communication of several Spectrum people, a problem that began two days ago. It does not really matter that it was Spectrum. It could have been any business. The experiences are fairly universal.
Mike and I needed to move the internet equipment from one of our beach condos to the other beach condo next door. The internet equipment has served both units, but we have sold the one that housed the equipment. I called Spectrum and found out what we needed to do to make the change, and we made the change two days ago. Mike made sure it was working in the unit before leaving it. That condo is currently rented.
We happened to be at the beach today for other business and received a call from the rental agency saying that the internet in the condo was not working. I called Spectrum and they said the problem could be that one screen on their end was not activated, and they activated it. The person said all was working on their end, but there were no devices connected at the time, so they could not determine if it was working on the user end. So, obviously, Mike and I needed to test it. We went to the condos and tested the internet from the parking lot, and it was not working. Since I could not even see our personal network name, it occurred to me that the internet network and password may have defaulted to the factory settings. The reason I even knew of this possibility was because we have had this problem previously. Sure enough, that was the problem. The Spectrum person corrected the problem, and we were able to connect.
I was left with questions. When does the internet default to the factory settings, and what causes it to do so? Why is this information not provided to the customer? When an internet is not working, why does the internet provider staff not verify the network and password, and do so early in the troubleshooting? In all of my calls to the internet provider for several years, this has never been done, although more than these two times the internet has defaulted to the factory settings. If this is so common, the customer should have this information so the problem can be solved efficiently.
To their credit, Spectrum staff are courteous and knowledgeable. I am not a techie, and I have never felt inadequate dealing with their technical staff. But it takes too long to solve a problem which they usually have caused, and the problem could be avoided or solved much more efficiently. If they asked enough of the right questions and/or provided more information to the customer early in the conversation, problems would be solved quicker and with less frustration.
Enough about Spectrum. How about you and me? How are we communicating what other people need to know?
The 5W1H Model can help us to communicate well. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Did you know that these words that you know so well are actually a business model? All of these words are not needed in all communication, but some of them are needed in all communication.
Think of “Who” as who needs to know what you plan to communicate. (And in what order, if there is more than one?) “What” specifically do they need to know? (How much detail?) Do they need to know “Why?” (Younger generations want to know the “Why,” not just the “What” of decisions.) “When” do they need to know? (Before or after something is to be done?) “Where” do they need to be when they are told? (Sometimes the setting matters.) “How” do they need to be told? (Direct or Indirect communication?)
When we are communicating something to others who are at a different knowledge level about what is being discussed, we need to talk on their level, without talking down to them. We need to clarify what was heard and make them feel safe to ask questions. Like the Spectrum staff do every time I speak with them. Which I will likely have an opportunity to do again!