Communication Is Key! How a Little Communication Goes a Long Way.

Who else thinks a lot of life’s small irritations could be solved with just a little bit more communication?

When I say communication, I do not mean a full-length thesis with accompanying PowerPoint and video presentation. No. It could be as small as a nod of the head, a notice with a 2-line explanation, or a well-placed sign.

This week, I had an appointment that I needed to attend in person. I had not been to the offices before, but I saw from the address they were in a particularly congested part of a nearby city. The question of parking sprung to mind. 

I looked on Google Maps Street View and saw the offices were situated above a strip mall. There was a large parking lot in front—great, easy parking. 

In my usual fashion, I set off with time to spare. On arrival, I was happy to see the lot was about one-quarter full; several strip mall shops were shuttered. Zipping into one of the many free bays, I noticed signs stating that the bays were only for retail clients. I reversed and began driving up and down the rows looking for bays that served non-retail visitors. The offices above the shops took up five floors; there had to be bays for those clients.

Minutes passed, and I became more annoyed. Why was there no signage directing building visitors where to park? Don’t tell me what I shouldn’t do if you won’t tell me what I should! I stopped and surveyed the abundance of bays. Then, contrary to my usual goody-two-shoes nature, I boldly parked in a retail bay and headed to the building’s entrance. 

Once in the main lobby, I looked around for any signs related to parking. Logically, if someone was in the building’s lobby, they were probably not there as a retail client, and therefore the correct parking would be clearly explained. There were countless signs about masks, hand sanitizing, elevator occupancy, and social distancing, but nothing related to parking.

I headed up to my floor and signed in with the receptionist. As I handed over my forms, I casually mentioned that I had parked in the front lot and assumed it was okay. She shook her head vigorously and instructed me to head back out to move my car. Now!

But where? I asked. Then, in three sentences, she told me: “exit the lot, turn right, and right again,” and there I would see a “P” on the side of the building. Below the P was a ramp down to underground parking for visitors to the office building.

I put my coat back on –did I mention it was pouring with rain?—left the offices, took the elevator down, walked back to my car, exited the lot, turned right and right, saw the painted P, and noticed the ramp discretely screened by several enormous Holly bushes.

Going back up in the escalator, I debated whether to give voice to my thoughts—add more signs! All this nonsense and waste of time could have been saved if even one sign had been displayed stating where the non-retail visitors should park.

But, instead, I decided to thank her for her clear instructions. Before I went to sit down, I asked if other people had also had to move their cars. “Oh yes,” she happily responded. “I’d say almost all first-time clients.”

When my daughter and son took on their first part-time jobs, I emphasized the importance of communication. I reminded them that people want to be acknowledged, and one of the quickest ways to annoy a customer is to ignore them. If a customer sat at one of their tables or approached their till point, and they were not immediately able to help them, all they had to do was communicate this information.

A smile and “I’ll be right with you” would buy them time to finish what they were doing. Once a customer is acknowledged—their existence is recognized—they are usually happy to wait until you serve them.

But ignore that person, and I can almost guarantee they will become irritated. Then, when you do start the transaction, they will likely be curt and possibly rude. 

Many years ago, I joined a club that met every second Thursday. The meetings were held in a small room in our local community center. It was set up with chairs in rows, all facing a desk at the front. My first time attending, I headed to a chair in the middle. The room filled, and then another new person arrived and dropped into a chair in the front row. That was when a lady stood up and whispered something in their ear. They rose and scampered to a chair near the back. 

At my next meeting, I headed back to the general vicinity where I had sat the last time. But, as before, when the room filled, a first-time visitor slipped into a front-row seat.  Again, the woman (I now knew she was the club secretary) went over, whispered in their ear, and guided the person to another row.

I was mystified. What was the problem with the front row seats? 

Since there was an ever-changing cast of visitors, this performance was repeated and repeated at every meeting. Eventually, I simply had to ask what was going on.

With an earnest expression, the secretary informed me that they liked to keep the front row open in case the director of the community center dropped in.

So many questions filled my head. Did the director herself request this special treatment? Had she ever in all the years dropped in? Why did she require an entire row? But, I nodded and then quietly asked why they didn’t simply prop up a sign on the end of the front row (the chair closest to the door) stating: “please leave front row open”? The secretary blinked a few times and walked off. 

Now, I’d love to tell you that a crisp, neatly printed, laminated sign was in place by the next meeting, but it wasn’t. Not even a hastily written note scribbled on a scrap of paper was anywhere to be seen. For another year, I attended meetings, and without fail, at almost every meeting, some poor first-timer was summarily dismissed to another seat.

Communication is key.

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