What's in an 'S' ?


What's in an 'S' ?

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  November 12, 2013

Money makes the world go ‘round, or so the saying goes, unless you grew up in the ‘60s, in which case, it’s love, not money. Neither is true. Communication is what makes it all work. Fortunately, we have a tremendous amount of new technology that makes it easy for us to communicate quickly and effectively – welcome to the digital age.

But, I have recently witnessed several instances that have caused me to wonder if the all-digital world we have built is actually creating a communications gap, despite the technological achievements.

I watch children so drawn in by their devices they “forget” to pay attention to their parents, friends, and siblings.

I have seen parents at youth sporting events so focused on their screens (might have been work e-mail or Candy Crush, I’m not sure), they not only missed most of the game, but actually had the nerve to argue over a referee’s call when they had their heads buried in apps the whole time.

I’ve been at corporate dinners, where, as much as I would have loved to engage in conversation with industry colleagues, I couldn’t because I had better views of their e-mail inboxes than their own faces.

I’ve witnessed customer service reps completely inept when having to go off script.

And, of course, when anyone under the age of 30 contacts a friend or colleague (please pardon the possibly gross generalization, but I have to make a distinction somewhere), their fingers naturally gravitate towards IM apps, email, and social media, regardless of the situation.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not minimizing the value of digital technology, nor am I suggesting we should avoid technological evolution in ways that will enhance our ability to communicate. There is tremendous value in the capabilities delivered by today’s applications and devices, in both personal and professional lives.

I’m simply saying that I fear the injection of digital communications into our lives has the potential to have a detrimental effect on our ability to engage in face-to-face interactions if we aren’t careful. In fact, you see it in our digital communications, where, far too often, grammar and courtesy go by the wayside, a trend that is becoming more common in face-to-face interactions as well, IYKWIM.

We have spent countless pages in this magazine discussing the value of social media, the need for social media integration into contact center systems, and the need to have appropriately trained personnel to handle social interactions. The latter is the key, as even in social channels, there are professional and colloquial ways of handling interactions.

When dealing with customers, only the former drives results, which is why it is imperative that as employers, we ensure our team members are well-equipped and properly trained to communicate with customers and colleagues; as employees, we take care in our verbal and visual communications to ensure we are able to do the same; and as parents, we constantly engage our children and challenge them to think outside the LED box.

Technology is a fantastic enabler, and it can enhance our ability to communicate, but only if communicating is already a skillset we own. Mobile devices, instant messaging, e-mail, social media, even voicemail, are all transport mechanisms with the same objective – getting my message to you. That requires that I have the ability to craft that message in a way that ensures you understand, especially if I expect a response or action from you.

Today’s world requires, perhaps, a more rigorous educational environment than ever before. Not only must we prepare the future workforce to be technologically savvy, but it can’t come at the expense of social skills.

You see, what I mean when I say communication makes the world go round, is that it is not communications, but communication, that drives success. All the technology in the world won’t help if we aren’t able to formulate logical thoughts and deliver them with an appropriate level of eloquence and professionalism and proper grammar. If you have comments, please feel free to give me a call; I’d love to have a conversation with you.

In the meantime, tell your kids no iPhones at the dinner table (it’s a great time to talk about the day); turn off the tablet with Hulu (News - Alert)+ running and pick up a book (a real, honest to goodness physical book); stop checking e-mail during your kids’ soccer games and become part of the experience with the other families; and get up from your desk and walk down the hall to discuss items with your colleagues instead of always IMing them (not only does it keep you interpersonal skills honed, but also provides a bit of physical exercise). In short, be human. It will help you develop as a communicator (regardless of what your communications technology of choice is).

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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