You are damn right it is. Language has the ability to offend or create an unexpected impression. For example, did I offend someone with my use of damn versus darn.
I had the occasion to call a hotel to book a meeting room and accommodation for a 2 day client off-site. I had spoken to a Sales Associate a couple weeks earlier who had provided all the appropriate information and been very helpful. However, when I called back to book the event, I was informed my contact was on vacation for 2 weeks — but the person on the phone would be pleased to help me.
I provided information on dates and requirements to help them find original documentation so we wouldn’t have to repeat the entire discussion. However, I discovered that when planning for vacations, the turn-over to a back-up person was only for executed contracts — not ones that were still in the consideration phase. Fair enough. I actually sent the original email back to the hotel so the new person could have a copy of the interaction thus far.
When I mentioned that it was too bad there wasn’t a process in place to avoid this situation — requiring me to effectively begin the entire transaction again — rather than a response that suggested some empathy to the situation, instead I was told that people had a right to go on vacation.
My Perspective: Wow, that one comment changed my opinion about the customer focus of this particular hotel. In fact, that one comment made me reconsider my decision to book the hotel.
What would happen if another issue arose at the event. Would they be equally defensive about the situation or would they immediately look for ways to address the situation. My reputation is at risk when I work with a hotel on an event and I want to know they are my partners, not looking to cover their backs.
This is what I call an iceberg comment. A comment that gives you insight into the attitude or behaviours that lurk beneath the surface. It may seem like a small comment, but it can often be the first hint of a much bigger issue below the waterline.
Thinking about your own response to customer issues — do you have any language in your vocabulary that hints to a bigger issue under the surface?
You can read about another poor use of language in my post Did I say “no problem”?
The final kicker was the email I received after hanging up the phone — the person I was speaking with was the Director of Sales.