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MCLEOD: Two wastes of time that shouldn't happen

Lisa McLeod

Lisa McLeod

When is it OK to interrupt someone who is sharing information that you don’t need?

Yes, this is going to be a rant.

I recently had the agonizing experience of waiting through a monologue from a chirpy AT&T customer rep who wasted 30 seconds of my time describing how pleased she was to serve me.

My cellphone battery was dying, and my plane was about to take off, I had 2 minutes to add international calling to my plan before I headed out.

Ms. Chirpy answered the call by describing how delighted she was to be serving me and how much AT&T cared about my business. All of this before she asked me how she could actually help me.

How many hours a day do you waste having to listen to something that has no value? Here are two of my biggest pet peeves:

  1. Talking about service rather than providing it.

I’m sure the AT&T rep was a nice person just trying to do her job. Her clearly scripted intro was no doubt the result of some AT&T executive who thought that spending 30 seconds telling customers how valuable we are would be a better use of our time than actually helping us.

Thirty seconds might not seem like a big deal. But when a customer wants something, and you make them wait so that you can give what is basically a sales pitch it sets the wrong tone for the interaction.

Companies with stellar customer service, like Apple, don’t waste the customer’s time with scripted niceties. Their representatives are polite, but while AT&T reps are still reciting their marketing jingle, the Apple rep has already started to diagnose the problem. Ritz Carlton employees offer their famous signature “It’s my pleasure” line after they provide you the service, not before.

Describing how wonderful you are is about your need to say it, not the receivers need to hear it.

  1. Reciting information that people can read

I attended several recent parent presentations at my daughter’s high school where a teacher or administrator basically read from the slide deck or handout. It was excruciating. I now understand why my daughter does not like school.

People can read faster than they can talk. When a presenter reads from slides, the audience has already finished reading the entire slide while the presenter is still on the second bullet.

It’s not just teachers, executives are even worse offenders. People read aloud from reports, walk you through products manuals, and provide instructions that you already have right in front of you. It’s an incredibly infective use of time for all parties involved.

If the information can be communicated in writing, just send it; don’t force people to attend a meeting. If you expect people to show up in person, make the interaction matter. Provide new info, or nuanced info that couldn’t be communicated in writing. Ask questions, answer questions, get people to interact. If you’re worried about people not reading your info, which is I suspect what the school worried about, provide the handout then add value, color, and interpretation with your words.

Life is short. Meaningful human interaction is an excellent way to spend our limited time on this earth.

But meaningless drivel is a waste of time for everyone.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of several books, including “Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud.”