My trusty Malibu just turned 100,000 miles. I’ve been faithful about maintaining regular checkups, and I knew that 100,000 miles was an important one. I called the dealership to make an appointment with the service department, and added one additional item. The passenger side window was cracked, and I wanted an estimate for its replacement. The service writer informed me that he would have to speak to the glass department and then order the new window. He promised to get back to me shortly.
Several days went by and I still hadn’t heard from him. I called back and a different service writer answered. I again explained what I needed. This gentleman informed me of an entirely different process to have my car serviced and the window repaired. His explanation was much more complicated than what the first service writer had explained. I was confused. I didn’t think that something as simple as a 100,000 mile service and a window repair could be so complicated, nor that it would inconvenience me by an extra day.
Frustrated, I offered to take my business elsewhere, and requested a supervisor. The gentleman informed me that he was a supervisor, and then to his credit began to unwind my frustration. He offered to inform his management of the incorrect messages that I had received in order to provide service writers with additional training. He then went through the 100,000 mile service with me item by item. He answered my questions expertly, and by the time we were finished he had completely diffused the situation.
Listening to that young man and how skillfully he had turned me around as a customer, I began to think back to project situations where his type of communication skills would have been invaluable. As an example (and I wish it were an isolated example), I remember a situation where the client’s CIO and the vendor’s Project Manager were negotiating the project closeout. Of particular concern to the CIO were the number of incomplete project deliverables and system defects. The CIO stated his concerns, and the Project Manager essentially dismissed them. The CIO relinquished some ground, but the Project Manager would not budge. In good faith, the CIO offered additional concessions, and still the Project Manager did not budge. When the CIO offered facts and supporting evidence for his position, the Project Manager offered obfuscation.
But here’s the sad part. Had the Project Manager just given in on a few small items, the CIO would have felt that he was heard, and that many of his concerns were going to be handled. In fact, the two sides weren’t even that far apart; but the more the Project Manager dug in, the more animosity and distrust he built.
Maybe I’ll offer my Chevrolet service writer some contract work. I know some Project Managers that could use what he has to teach.
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