Cultivating Positive Relationships Customer Service General Marketing Kudon'ts Opinion

 Pay Attention!

Aliens ‘neurolyze’ attention spans?

The “Men in Black” movies featured neuralyzers capable of erasing memories. I’m wondering if aliens got hold of the technology and have a launched a worldwide invasion to compromise memories and attention spans in everything from writing and editing to technology and communication.

Along the way, inattention, uncaring, and sloppiness are hampering willingness and ability to provide quality customer service. It’s everywhere, all the time. Just before writing this post, I saw a WABC headline all too emblematic of the problem: “Jackie Robinson Parkway sign goes up with spelling mistake…A sign for the Jackie Robinson Parkway went up with a spelling mistake in Queens. The sign was up on Sunday night at Myrtle Avenue and Forest Park Drive in Queens and is missing a ‘c’ in ‘Jackie.’ The Department of Transportation says the sign will be fixed immediately.”

In this case, the justified outrage of Robinson’s many fans is its own form of customer disservice. There was a time when I looked at New York as the king of communication excellence and accuracy. Now, the Big Apple isn’t king even in Queens, where the sign spelling gaffe was spotted.

This emerged at the same time as I was seething about two automated systems where clearly someone didn’t pay attention to detail. One was a calendar-scheduling program that should have been easy peasy to install, set up, and launch. It proved to be anything but, so I finally uninstalled everything after four attempts to find some level of competence.

The second involved online credit card management tools. I went to update some account information which, based on its seeming simplicity, should have taken literally a minute to change and save. I kept doing it. It wouldn’t save. Eventually, I contacted the customer service call center, where the hold time was virtually non-existent. Resolution of the issue took only a minute. The customer service rep didn’t know why the automated platform hadn’t accepted the update, but said the system he was using was completely separate.

I wondered why there wasn’t a disclaimer on the page about possible malfunctions due to browser or other technology incompatibility, with a quick link to live phone support. Instead, I wasted time and depleted patience trying to make it work. In truth, this happens all the time on many online platforms. Too often, inattention, uncaring, and sloppiness lead to these types of snafus. Obviously, there was a lack of testing and/or thinking through the process—a major, wide-ranging flaw spotlighted by none other than a telecom senior technologist expressing frustration to me one day.

If people followed these basic steps in their everyday lives, think how many mistakes and missteps could be avoided:

  1. Review/proof anything written before sharing it. Where needed, have others review, proof, and edit as well. And don’t expect spelling or grammar checkers or autocorrect to be the final authority. They’re all just technology support tools, not solutions. In the case of autocorrect, it can cause instead of correcting problems.
  2. Think, Test, and Troubleshoot technology before going prime time. As part of this, consider that not everyone will be accessing via a smartphone or tablet. Too often, there are discrepancies between mobile and desktop performance. If the technology is available on desktop, make sure it renders and works correctly! Otherwise, limit access to mobile apps.
  3. Take your own words seriously. When offering to respond or reach out by a certain date, it’s a commitment. Take it seriously. If unsure about the ability to fulfill the commitment, don’t make it. Offer what is reasonable and doable—then do it (or at least communicate if there will be a delay). In the case of meeting deadlines, offer reasonable and reliable dates upfront based on a thorough examination of what’s on the plate—instead of apologizing and making excuses later.
  4. Address all questions thoughtfully. I can’t recall how many times I’ve gotten only partial responses the first time around. Especially in the case of customer service email responses, there needs to be a thoughtful response to the matter addressed. Too often, you get back some totally irrelevant gobbledygook. I experienced this recently with a syncing tool I’ve used successfully for more than a decade. I emailed about a problem. What I got back what was clearly canned info that ignored the question asked. My customer service rating for this company went down considerably.
  5. Prioritize correct grammar (including syntax), spelling, and punctuation. While typos in everything from texts to street signs have become commonplace, that doesn’t mean they are acceptable. Many scoff at the importance using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation because they feel they aren’t a priority in the world today. Remember, there are still many people who do value these qualities. Their decision-making, about everything from personal relationships to business choices, may well hinge on “communication done correctly.”

Good customer service, in part, requires attentive, thoughtful, and detailed communication. Ultimately, this results in building trust, likeability, and respect. It’s time to pay attention!


Mark Lusky Communications helps companies that honor customers, workers, communities, the environment, and stakeholder governance tell their story to the world. Interested? Let’s talk.

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