Basic communicating seems easy in principle, but is difficult in practice.

Today I’d like to talk about selective hearing and wishful thinking, as these two elements get many repair shops in trouble.

You are not responsible for what you say. You are responsible for what people hear.

Wishful thinking is when one hopes something will work out a certain way, even when that is not what has been specified. Selecting hearing is when the brain completely ignores information that is not positive. These are both basic means of self-preservation when dealing with difficult situations, and as a repair shop, we are always dealing with difficult situations. No one likes spending money to get back the exact same device they had before they broke it. People’s minds will be in a hopeful state that restoration & repair will happen as close to instantly as possible, and as close to $0 as possible. Everything you say will be selectively listened to, through the tint of wishful thinking.

Turnaround time example.

For certain jobs that take three to six hours, my junior staff members have told customers it will be done in three to six hours. This is the wrong thing to do; selective hearing turns this into “it will be done in three hours guaranteed.” We bet lunch on this two years ago, and had a good laugh when two and a half hours later the gentleman walked in. Not only did he expect it to be finished, but he was also irate at it still being worked on, with the statement “you told me it’d be done in three hours!”

We smirked back and forth at one another and went about our business. I never made her buy me lunch.

Success likelihood example.

We’re a no fix no pay business, so we do not charge for jobs we can’t complete. There are certain services we offer where there isn’t a 100%, or even 80% chance of success. For example, recently we’ve received many Macbook Pro logic board repair that have been pee’d on by a cat. You can imagine how & why these would be difficult to work on, and how there isn’t guaranteed success working on a motherboard that an animal has pissed on.

If you say “We have an 80% success rate. It’s not guaranteed, but we may fix your board”, what is heard by the customer is 80% success, fix your board. So when you fail… you see where this is going. You are in deep shit – even though you never quite promised anything.

Anything short of saying “this most likely will not work, but we can try and you won’t be charged if we fail” will screw you over. You used the words not work, and fail. These are the words that stick in the customer’s head.

Wishful thinking and selective hearing can turn “we have an 80% success rate” into “we will be successful guaranteed”, but wishful thinking is not powerful enough to turn the words “most likely fail” into success.

Keeping yourself responsible for these situations instead of the customer allows you to remain in control.

I can’t say we’ve never made fun of the customer after they’ve left. I can’t. Sometimes we even do it with them here. Some of the shit we’ve seen has been so outright ridiculous, where we tell someone it will take a week and they come back 45 minutes later, that we can’t help but laugh. However, this should not be the primary method of dealing with these issues.

As fun as it is to poke fun of people when these situations arise, I don’t believe in throwing in the towel and blaming the customer. When we say it’s the customer’s fault, we make them responsible, and if they’re responsible, then they’re in control – not us! I don’t believe in forfeiting control of these situations. Many businesses will simply tout “can’t make everyone happy” and keep it movin’, but by doing so they are giving up any influence they may have over customer satisfaction. This is crazy!

If we take ownership of each failure, we become responsible for it. That which we are responsible for, we have control over. If we accept that we have control over their unhappiness, that means that we have control over making them happy as well. That’s what we’re looking for – we seek to be in control of making our customers happy as often as possible.

We don’t just take responsibility for what we say – we try to take responsibility for what people hear.

At many repair shops,miscommunication results when the technician says X, and the customer hears Y. It is thought that the technician is not at fault if it can be proven that he did say X. Here, we believe in taking responsibility for what people actually hear. If what a customer hears is not in line with what we said, we believe there is room for improvement.

This is why in these situations, we try to come up with policies that will make the most sense to the most people. We don’t stick to them 100% of the time, because every situation is different. I’m certainly not suggesting you create a bureaucracy of silly rules you must follow all the time. Rather, I am suggesting an approach of dealing with customers where their best expectation is equal to your 2nd to worst case scenario. I am suggesting you not say “I did enough” if you explained everything properly. Think about how you could have phrased your statements better, so that people’s expectations are where they are supposed to be. If you do this, you will find your shop runs much smoother, and your customers will be happier!