It's not just what you do, it's also how you do it

Properly designing and installing a system bring us only 8% to 20% of the way toward total customer satisfaction.

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Properly designing and installing a system bring us only 8% to 20% of the way toward total customer satisfaction.

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In a recent workshop designed to improve my presentation skills, I learned that approximately 50% of all person-to-person and person-to-group communication is nonverbal. Experts in the field of personal communication tell us that it is made up of three parts: words or content, tone, and nonverbal signals. To me, content is "what you say," tone is "how you say it," and nonverbal signals are "how you look while saying it."

As in any field of study, opinions differ on just how much importance each of these three elements carries. On one end of the spectrum is the school of thought that 20% of communication is content, 35% tone, and 45% nonverbal. On the other side are those who believe 8% of communication is content, with 37% tone and 55% nonverbal. That tells me that even those with the most divergent opinions believe nonverbal signals account for somewhere between 45% and 55% of communication. And there is almost universal agreement on the impact of tone.

I'll bet that even if you never heard these figures or have never given the concept much thought, you have probably seen proof of it often. How many times have you been at a seminar or conference and listened to a presenter who provided information that was technically accurate, but delivered it in such a manner that it was obvious that the presenter was either nervous or preoccupied? When I have observed that type of presentation, the speaker's demeanor has left an impression on me, while the intended message has not.

At the same time, a speaker cannot get away with having good form only. When I invest time and money to attend a conference, seminar, or workshop, I fully expect there will be some substance within those flashy PowerPoint presentations. So even though content might account for only 8% to 20% of communication, it typically is the 8% to 20% that the audience assumes will be on- target. A speaker who does not oblige that assumption can lose credibility and the audience, regardless of how composed the presenter might be.

And as for tone, I have only to refer to one of Generation X's favorite movies and offer to you, "Buellerellipse Buellerellipse Anyone?ellipse"

But my point in bringing this up is not to get you to pay closer attention to every detail the next time you witness a presentation. Rather, it is to ask you to pay close attention to your day-to-day job activities. I think that content, tone, and nonverbal signals-the three elements of communication-have parallels in the professional realm. The professional parallel of content is "what you do," the parallel of tone is "how you do it," and the professional parallel of nonverbal signals is "how you look doing it."

Compare a cabling project to a seminar presentation. Content = what you do = designing or installing a structured cabling system. Tone = how you do it = customer service and response to customer needs. Nonverbal signals = how you look doing it = the impression you make on the customer, i.e., how the customer remembers you.

Like attendees at a conference, your customer will take for granted that you will properly design or install the cabling system. The number of quality training programs available today and the fact that many professionals in the cabling industry have been at their craft for a number of years mean that many in the industry meet that customer assumption. Still, some fail to live up to that expectation and seriously compromise their credibility with customers.

And if we take the liberty of also applying the "communication percentages" to the cabling professions, we realize that properly designing and installing a system ("what you do") bring us only 8% to 20% of the way toward total customer satisfaction. About 35% of your customer's satisfaction will be determined by "how you do it"-how well you respond to the customer's needs and the manner in which you keep the customer informed of progress and project status. And finally, just about half of your customer's satisfaction depends on "how you look doing it," or what impression you make on the customer.

So please keep in mind the three elements of personal communication as you carry out your cabling projects. You wouldn't want your technical skill to be overshadowed by some avoidable snafu that leaves an unfavorable impression.

Patrick McLaughlin
Editor-in-Chief
patrick@pennwell.com

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