Solve the Mystery – Don’t Make Them Guess!

Not long ago, an email arrived from an advocate with a flyer attached. Her email contained one line, “I wanted you to see it. All thoughts appreciated.”

Then, a few days later, I received a voice mail message from someone else, “Call me back. 555-456-7890” 

In both cases I was reminded of my ex-husband….

My ex-husband, whose name was David (no, not Torrey!) had this habit of carrying on conversations in his head and believing I could hear them, too. So he would ponder something for a moment, then pop up with a question or statement (the next logical piece of his silent conversation) then get upset with me because I didn’t know what he was talking about. It would go something like,

David:  “So we’ll go over there next week.”

Me:  “Go over where?”

David: “I told you where! To the mall! Why don’t you pay attention to me?” 

(Yea. Which partially explains the “ex” in front of “husband”… but I digress.)

The point is… in HIS head, he knew what the discussion was about, and what his expectations were. Because I had not been a part of the discussion, or the thought-process, I had no idea.

Which is EXACTLY how that email (and many others like it) and that voice mail (and many others like it, too!) came across. in THEIR heads they both knew what they wanted. Somehow they thought I could read their minds, too.

Instead, both were mysteries, and I was left trying to figure out what to do from there.

Now you might look at them and say, “That’s easy. Ask!”  And of course, that’s exactly what I needed to do.

But – what a waste of time and effort!  If the requestor had been clear to begin with, then I could have responded or helped right away. As it was, the email required several back and forths before I understood why she had sent the brochure, and what she expected from me. And the phone call was a total bust, because we played phone tag for two days, and it turned out it was a patient asking me to find him an advocate – which we don’t do. (In fact, it’s very clear on our website that we, as AdvoConnection, don’t provide advocate names over the phone. The only way to retrieve them is through the online directory. By way of explanation, can you imagine calling the Yellow Pages and asking them to give you the name of an attorney?)

image - man on phoneToday’s TIP is intended to make this important point:  When it comes to one-on-one communication*, don’t leave others guessing. Not your clients, or potential clients, or anyone else you are dealing with…

To leave basic question marks comes across as unprofessional and disrespectful.

Be clear! Be concise. Provide enough details so the receiver doesn’t have to guess.  Be succinct with your expectations!

Voice mail example:  This is Ken Fitzgerald and I’m calling to bring you up to date on the discussion I had with your health insurer. Please call me back at  555-789-0123**. I’ll be at my desk until 5 PM today.

Email example:  Here is a copy of our contract. Please take a look and let me know if you have questions. Watch for another email with a link to the online signature website. As soon as you send it back, we can get started.

Further, as a reminder, speak slowly and clearly, too.

A professional service provider makes it easy for the others around him or her to know exactly where things stand, and what to expect. To do any less is a failure of communication, erodes trust, and makes the other person question one’s professionalism. 

*Let me distinguish here between one-on-one communication, and marketing communication in which a little bit of mystery can actually boost your marketing. Read more about this concept in The Health Advocate’s Basic Marketing Handbook.

** Don’t assume you’re leaving a message on a mobile phone and someone can simply push a button to call you back. Be professional enough to leave your number.


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