Do You Communicate Effectively?

I like to believe I do.

When a customer emails or calls I immediately go into problem solving mode. I put myself in my customers shoes and listen to what they are trying to explain to me. I imagine that their problem is my problem and what I would do to fix it. Having an analytical mind and knowing the products I sell, helps me to imagine the problem and find the solution without actually having to put my hands on it. As I am doing this I am also figuring out how to explain the solution in such a way that they will be able to understand. Of course, people are different, and some you can just tell them what needs to be done and they do it, others may not be mechanically inclined and need more basic step by step directions. Then we have some that need even more attention than that…

The customers problem:

I had one customer call and explain that she tried to make a change to the programming on her misting timer, made a mistake, and needed help. I get these calls all the time and figured I could get her up and running within 5 minutes. She had a Spanish accent that I had a tough time with, and walking her through the programming may take a bit longer because of it, but no problem right?

When my customers call me to help with re-programming their misting timers after they have made changes, I have found that it is best to just start from scratch. Not knowing exactly which buttons have been pushed makes it extremely difficult for me to determine how to fix the problem. By starting over, I can get the customer running within minutes.

Before I start walking the customer through the programming I ask a few questions: how many zones, does each zone have the same settings, etc. After getting this info, we begin.

The first thing I have them do is unplug the timer and remove the battery to erase the current program. Just unplugging the timer will not shut the timer off, the battery backup is designed to retain the program in the event of a power failure. I had the woman unplug the timer and remove the battery. After the required 30 second wait, I had the woman replace the battery and started to walk her through the programming. We immediately hit a snag when she told me that the programming was not erased. Not a big deal, we probably did not wait a full 30 seconds after the battery was removed and the program was not erased. I had her remove the battery again and engaged her in small talk for a complete minute before having her replace the battery.

She immediately told me that the program had not been erased. What the heck? A full minute with no power and the program is still not erased? I asked her to confirm that the timer was indeed unplugged and the battery was removed, she did. Weird…

Now I am a bit confused at this point. I have programmed literally hundreds if not thousands of these timers and have never run into this particular problem. In fact, the DIG misting controllers are almost faultless. What was going on with this one? I had her remove the battery once again and we waited a full two minutes before I told her to re-install the battery. Again, the programming had not been erased!

At this point I was stumped. She needed to get this misting controller fixed so she could get her cuttings misted. They had already been out of the mist much too long. I walked her through bypassing her misting solenoid so her cuttings could get some moisture while I racked my brains trying to figure out why the programming was not being erased. There was no good explanation; when all the power is removed, the timer cannot possibly retain the programming!

I had her remove the battery for a full five minutes this time with the same results; the program just would not be erased. I told her that I thought her timer was possessed and that it may be worth a lot of money if it could run without electricity. I told her to remove the battery once again and call me in 1/2 hour.

After hanging up I immediately grabbed the same timer off my shelf, installed a battery and programmed it according to what she needed. I then removed the battery for 30 seconds and replaced it. The programming was erased as I knew it would be. What the heck was up with her timer?

She called back in a 1/2 hour and I told her to place the battery back into the timer. She did, and I asked if the program was gone. She said no! A full 1/2 hour without power and this thing still had retained the program? No way!

I was about ready to give up and overnight a new misting timer to her when I decided to try one more time. I asked her to remove the battery and she did. We waited 30 seconds and I asked if the digital display was blank, an indication that the program was erased. NO. I told her to be sure the battery was not touching the battery connector in the timer. The timer takes a 9 volt battery and I wanted to be sure it was fully disconnected. “Disconnected?” she asked, “you told me to remove it from the timer. That is what I have been doing, opening the cover that holds it in place and letting it fall out, but I never disconnected it.”

We both laughed and I had her disconnect the battery, wait 30 seconds and re-connect it. A miracle! The program was erased! I quickly walked her through the programming and she had her timer running within minutes.

Moral of the story:

Although I asked her to remove the battery, I did not tell her to disconnect it. Most folks would assume that when you are asked to remove a battery, it means disconnect it. I should have been clearer and told her specifically to disconnect it, but didn’t. This small communication breakdown caused us to waste about an hour and a half’s worth of time. Time that her cuttings needed to be misted, time that I could have better spent on other things.

Be sure when you are communicating with someone that you don’t assume the other person knows exactly what you are saying. Assume they don’t and go from there, it may save you a ton of time and in this case, a bit of embarrassment on both sides.

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