Tag Archives: Communication

Cranky About Commas

Maybe I’ve always had tendencies to be a cranky old man but as I’m turning into one I find great schadenfreude when the universe punishes those who are lax about grammar and spelling. It could just be my history as an English teacher but I find my already elevated blood pressure spiking when I see people misusing punctuation or not particularly caring if they’ve mistaken “your” for “you’re” or “to” for “too.”

It cheered me up, therefore, when I read that a lawsuit over an Oxford comma was settled. An Oxford comma, as I’m sure you recall, is an optional piece of punctuation used just before the coordinating conjunction (such as “and,” “but,” or “or”) in a list of three or more things. I think its use provides clarity and I suspect that parties to this suit – a dairy company in Maine and their delivery drivers – now realize the importance of clarity. The comma was omitted from a list of circumstances which would not qualify for overtime payments. Because of that omission, the drivers argued that they were entitled to overtime since the words “distribution of” were connected, without a comma, to “packing for shipment,” making that a single activity that wasn’t eligible for overtime. The drivers said they were only engaged in distributing the product which is NOT on the list.

I think there is an important point for any of us who provide written communication in any event. It bothers me, probably more than it should, when I read something from one of my connections that misuses language. I’m not talking about the vagueries of punctuating parenthetical statements or comma use for multiple adjectives. I mean simple things such as the examples above or “it’s” as a possessive. It’s worse when a company does it since you know multiple people looked at whatever was being produced as a piece of marketing or a social media post.

The settlement of the suit cost the dairy $5,000,000. That’s a lot of cheese. Sloppy proofreading can cost you just as much in how your customers and others feel about your brand. It’s not just the lawyers who get concerned with vague meanings and incorrect language. There are a lot of cranky old men and women out there who know the difference, and many of us are actually not so old (ask my kids who are bigger sticklers on this point than I am!). Is all that clear?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

You’re Missing 93%

One of the things I find to be both a blessing and a curse in our modern business world is email. As someone who can remember the days of typing (On a typewriter! With carbon paper for copies!) business correspondence and sticking it in an envelope prior to a days-long wait for a response, email’s immediacy is a blessing. Things happen! Stuff gets done! That’s great, but there are a few downsides and they’re worth thinking about.

First, because email is so fast, we tend to send missives off rather quickly. One thing the slow pace of written correspondence used to force was a thorough consideration of each thing we sent. Letters took time to craft and revisions took even longer because until the widespread use of the word processor one had to retype the entire document. Think about what a business partner would think if you were sending snail mail as you do email. Would you send a letter that simply said “OK” or “thanks” or any of the silly little emails we send? Would you send four notes a day, all within an hour of one another? Probably not.

The reality is that you’d probably not send a note at all. You’d pick up the telephone or, if it’s a work colleague, walk down the hall to see them. That’s the real downside of email, and I think it’s a huge problem. Why? I’ll let Psychology Today answer:

If there were ever numbers associated with body language and nonverbal communication, 55, 38, and 7 would be it. People often refer to these numbers as the standard for understanding nonverbal communication and expressing its importance- specifically over the words being spoken…The numbers represent the percentages of importance of varying communication channels have with the belief that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.

In other words, by using email as our primary form of interaction – with coworkers, with partners, with customers, or with vendors – we’re missing 93% of what they’re saying because they’re saying it either with body language or with their tone of voice.  The telephone helps capture the latter but we’re still missing more than half.

I realize that it’s not always practical to go see someone and you also want many communications to be in writing.  But in addition to the blessing (??) of email, we also have the gift of many video chatting platforms.  Skype, Facetime, Hangouts, and others make interacting with someone a near in-person experience.  More importantly, they can help assure that you’re “hearing” them because you can see all the non-verbal nuances that are NEVER available in email. Make sense?

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The Social Hot Potato

An interesting read this morning from the folks at Genesys (with a hat tip to Media Post).

1 and a half russet potato with sprouts. Slice...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Genesys conducted a study that surveyed more than 798 senior executives worldwide about customer communication and found that the social and mobile channels are not yet aligned with customer service.  Shocking, I know.  Some key points:

  • Fifty eight percent of C-suite Execs see the CEO as responsible for the social media and mobile channels, but only 28 percent of middle managers agree. The disconnect between top-level and mid-ranking executives might be explained by the novelty factor of social media.
  • When it comes to driving the customer conversation, the marketing department, not customer service or the C-suite, is driving the response to new channels with 44 percent of executives saying the marketing department has dominated the dialogue between company and customer.
  • The report also found that 43 percent of companies only began using social media in the last year and only 11 percent of businesses have been using social media to communicate with customers for three years or more.
  • Customer Service has not been a priority with new communications channels. Only 42 percent of organizations use call centers to communicate with customers and just 6 percent see customer support/service as the main purpose of new communication channels.

A few thoughts.  In larger, more mature companies, the CEO is generally someone my age – well over 50.  One might wonder how familiar your stereotypical CEO is with social channels and what sort of daily (much less hourly) use they make of them.  No wonder the middle managers are a little skeptical.  The implied turf war between marketing, PR, and customer service over who is in charge is no surprise.  Nor is it a shock that companies that appoint a single person, instead of a team, to manage all communications were more successful. Thirty-three percent of executives within companies that have appointed a team to manage social media/mobile channels felt that there was a disconnect between teams that touch these channels. In organizations that had appointed a single individual to manage new channels, just 9 percent perceived the same disconnect.

Social media as a communications channel is a huge disruptor.  Those sorts of hot potatoes aren’t welcomed into most corporate environments.  As the study show, the social round peg isn’t fitting into any of the existing square holes.  The companies that are doing well are the ones that have drilled a round place.

Thoughts?

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Filed under What's Going On