When we encounter communication challenges, sometimes we just have to woman or man up and solicit the help of a trained professional.
Websites, apps, and technology enable us to function as self-sufficient beings. Being an independent professional forces you to be your own IT support. This role requires us to read many vender-generated pdfs, endure bot-driven chats, and scroll through countless Q & A’s, all in Quixote-like searches for a solution. One that you often do not find.
In my case, I recently walked into my office with my handbag slung over my shoulder. A childlike voice plaintively called out “Hello?” from the depths of my handbag. My immediate thought was that my phone had dialed a number, and a client’s child had answered the phone.
So, I searched the phone to see if a mobile call/Facebook messenger/WhatsApp was in progress.
There was nothing. I restarted the phone, my go-to IT solution, and muttered my now daily mantra “That’s why I wrote my book about winning against digital distractions!”*
A short while later, sitting at my computer preparing a presentation, I heard that little voice again asking “Hello?” Then, I heard it again. And again. Suffice it to say, in this heavily edited PG-13 version of the experience, the question took me by surprise. Now I was perturbed. I looked again and could find nothing that made sense. I deleted messages, adjusted the phone settings, and thought “That should do it.”
Time would pass when all was quiet and good. Then without warning or apparent reason, I would hear “Hello?” I started to question my sanity. But I heard my Inner Queens Girl Voice, “Jules, get a grip. It’s technology. Your phone is not possessed, and you are not experiencing an “M. Night Shyamalan moment.”
Over the next few days, I continued to try to solve the issue. Maybe an audio file was embedded in a text message emoji, maybe something was lurking in the spam folder or junk mail. Nada.
So, the plaintive “Hello?” continued. And of course, at the worst times. She called out as I entered the grocery checkout line, started an online presentation, and right before entering a church to attend a funeral.
I did think about going in person to a T Mobile store. Because their representatives are always patient and helpful. But I just couldn’t bring myself to get in the car and go. I dreaded explaining my dilemma to a well-intentioned emerging professional and receiving “the look.” The look which categorizes me as a hopeless customer. “Ya know what I mean?” as my neighbors in Queens used to say. The customer who would be featured in their breakroom chat, their weekly updates, and the “can you believe it?” story over drinks. I am a strong, resilient woman, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Yes, I am all about facilitating employee engagement, but I do have my limits.
Another day passed and then “Hello?” I considered the cost of my pride plus the stress of getting startled regularly and factored in my forthcoming flight. I visualized my phone greeting security as it passed through TSA, “Hello?” And having it continue calling out to my fellow passengers while inflight, “Hello?” “Hello?”
I was unnerved. Then I remembered what my graduate school counseling program professor taught many years ago. He said: “Sometimes the client (aka me) needs to be in a sufficient state of anxiety or pain before they will be open to receiving advice of taking a logical course of action.”
So, I Googled the T Mobile help desk number. After selecting from multiple choices via my house phone, I reached a living, breathing customer service representative. When I heard a woman’s voice that was infused with experience, I had only one thought: “Thank God.” Then in my unique way relayed the situation and thanked her in advance for listening. I was sad when I parted with her because it felt good to be “heard and acknowledged.” It gave me hope. When the Tech Representative picked up, it was a woman and again I said to myself “Thank God!” I hoped that my customer service representative had contacted a friend of hers in the organization with the words “This one is special.”
After she listened to my plight for a few minutes, the rep recommended that I return to a phone option I had visited before. Together we found a voice option that somehow had been clicked in error. I selected it. And the rep and I immediately heard “Hello?” What the heck? We agreed that it was more than a little creepy.
With that, I was finally able to silence that wee phone spirit.
And I have to say, “What an excellent experience. Thanks, T-Mobile.”
Each customer service interaction included acknowledging my long-time affiliation and the traditional query at the end “Would you recommend us to a friend or family member? My response – wholeheartedly: “YES!” There aren’t many places I can call and say: “I think my phone is possessed can you help me?”
Every story presents learning opportunities, and these are my key takeaways:
- When you find yourself experiencing Communication Challenges, put pride aside and seek professional guidance.
- Take a few deep breaths to calm down.
- Find someone who will listen and not judge.
- A professional will be able to provide actionable options that you may have not considered.
- Find the humor in the situation if you can.
- Be patient but not so patient that forestall solving the problem.
- Find ways to say thank you in many ways.
- Figure out a way to play the lesson forward.
Note – We are in the middle of Women History Month and acknowledging historical and contemporary notables. Sometimes our biggest heroes are the anonymous women who staff the customer service and tech support call centers. A representative’s ability to be patient, provide focused listening, and engage in critical thinking can make a big difference as they guide us toward a solution. Thank you.
Julienne B. Ryan is the author of *“The Learned-It-In-Queens Communications Playbook – Winning Against Digital Distraction” and an applied, narrative storyteller, speaker, trainer, and coach. She is on a mission to improve how we communicate with each other, one authentic conversation at a time. Click on this link to learn about her services.