Customer communications: I’ve told you a billion times about hyperbole!

Travel broadens the mind

One of the joys of being a consultant is travel: new places, new people, new challenges.  Equally one of the woes of being a consultant is when travel doesn’t work well.  Or feels as though it’s going to be disastrous.  Here’s a case.

On climbing aboard the packed standard class Virgin Pendolino train this morning, en route to London – first class was empty as an old baked bean tin, as ever – I noticed the illuminated seat reservation signs were not working, nor were the seat lights.  Oh, well, at least I’ve reserved a seat, I mused to myself as I settled in, unpacking my compulsory on-board reading: notes for today’s  meeting with a potential client and some articles I’d printed off.

Should I panic?

We pulled out and I was set for a standard journey Virgin-style: charmless efficiency in cramped if cheerful cabins with the all too pungent toilet odour wafting gently through the air-conditioning.

After minutes the guard introduced himself to us on the PA system, announcing in what sounds like a voice slightly spooked, that there is a ‘serious malfunction’ with the train, with the word ‘serious’ being stressed to give that extra frisson of urgency.  Don’t know about you, but a ‘serious malfunction’ in the case of a train, sounds to me like the brakes have failed or we’re heading towards an oncoming train and the points have gone.  You know, serious malfunction…At the very least, we’re about to be stranded.  Should I panic?

Don’t panic!

Turns out said ‘serious malfunction’ was an electrical problem which was causing us to lose power and go a bit slower.  We were to pull in at the next due stop and restart the engine.  Sounded a bit like when you phone Sky TV: please turn your TV off and turn it on again.  In other words a reboot.  I’d never thought of a reboot in respect of a train.  Five minutes later, the train was duly ‘rebooted‘ and the ‘serious malfunction’ caused us a five minute delay to total journey time.

One of the maxims in management is that you should communicate how it really is, quickly and accurately. On this occasion, we were communicated to but in a tone that suggested we were all doomed.  Don’t want to challenge the honesty or the motivation, but turn down the hyperbole, brother, it’s early and I’m still coffeeing up!

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About transformingtales

What you do is what you do, isn't it? Nothing special there. What I do is work mainly with civil society organisations, but also some public and corporate sector outfits, to help them change. For the better. For good. If you provide a list of the things you do, the services you offer, like strategic planning, leadership development, corporate governance, culture change and performance management, they are just words. And tricky sounding words too that put you off and imply more questions than they answer. So, this blog is about the stories, the joys and the woes of making tranformative change happen (on a good day) and when and why it doesn't (on a bad day). And it's dedicated to my daughter who asked the question a few years ago: 'What do you do again, Dad?'
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