The Talk

How much is that doggie in the wrong window? – Avoiding bad assumptions in business

By - Last modified: October 30, 2013 at 10:17 AM

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You know the saying – about what you make “you” and “me” when you “assume.”

Well I got kicked in the assumption a couple of times this past week, and that got me thinking about the importance of proper communication when working with other people either within the workplace or when dealing with customers or vendors.

We've all been guilty of lapses in communication. For example – forgetting to tell the art department you were staring a new project that would affect it because you were so excited that you just jumped in and started doing it.

Who would possibly do something like that? (Me.)

Sometimes that just means rushing across the office at the last minute to apologize for your slight (sorry) and to bring everyone into the loop.

But sometimes a failure to communicate can be a huge pain in the assume, and it could cost you business.

The danger of making assumptions can happen in any industry.

For example, my parents were out for dinner Saturday night at a nice café in Downtown Easton.

My father ordered the fish and chips. Apparently, the meal normally comes with four pieces of fish. The restaurant only had two pieces left.

Instead of asking my father if he wanted to switch orders – which he would have – the server decided to serve him the fish and chips as half the serving for half the price.

My father insisted the food was excellent, but all he could talk about the next day was how annoyed he was that the server just assumed he would take the half portion without asking. It tainted the entire experience for them, and they're unlikely to go back.

My little dance with the assumption devil left me a little bit more disturbed.

If you've been reading my blog regularly (and why wouldn't you?), you know that I've been dealing with the aftermath of a truck crashing into the front of my house last month.

I was thrilled on Friday to have the construction contractor arrive – finally – to put in a permanent wall and a new window.

This came after a week of phone calls – mostly unreturned – about picking out the window that I wanted. Someone was supposed to meet with me. No one ever did, so I researched windows online and told the project manager I had narrowed my choices – but asked that the man ordering them call me in order to go over details.

He didn't. He ordered based on one of the photos I sent, which was supposed to illustrate the trim – not the window – that I wanted.

I arrived home to quite an unpleasant surprise – the wrong window.

There's no doubt this was a mistake to the tune of several hundred dollars. When I called to complain, the project manager's excuse was "well, I assumed."

But that's the problem, you never assume. You call. You talk. You confirm. You do not assume.

Honestly, the window is fine. It's not what I wanted, but I don't dislike it enough to make them order me a new one and replace it. That would just stall the repairs for another month.

I am, however, angry enough at the total lack of communication that I am going to be watching like a hawk for the remainder of the project. And trust me; no contractor wants an angry homeowner second guessing its every move.

I'm also thinking twice about hiring it to do side projects for me while the crew is working on the accident repair. If the construction manager can't give me a phone call over something as important as a window, I don't think I'm going to trust the company with my kitchen floors.

I should point out that I was a communications major in college, so proper communication is an issue of great importance to me. But it should be of great importance to anyone who has to work with others.

So here are a few good articles you can refer to that may help with your professional communications. They likely will save you from mishaps, and they could save you from losing work or money.

http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2003/10/13/smallb9.html?page=all

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/05/28/successful-business-communication-it-starts-at-the-beginning/

http://www.noupe.com/how-tos/12-secrets-of-effective-business-communication.html

Stacy Wescoe

Stacy Wescoe

Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe covers technology and trends plus keeps you up to date on what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler and on social media. Reach her at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 104. Follow her on Twitter at @morestacy and on Facebook and circle her on Google+.

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