is as logical as throwing a hammer after having smashed
your thumb with it.
At times when you answer the phone, you may be
too busy to help the customer. When that happens, ask
if you can call back rather than keep the customer
waiting on the phone for an extended time. A minute
spent waiting on the phone seems twice as long as a
minute spent waiting at the contact point.
When you answer the phone, first identify your
office or activity and then identify yourself. As in case
number 7, some contact point representatives answer the
phone correctly, but they speak so fast the customer
cant understand what is said. When you speak too fast,
you may then have to listen to a long, involved story
before you can refer the customer to the correct number.
Just as facial expressions and gestures help us
express a thought, they also help us convey feelings and
attitudes. The words and the voice you use over the
phone must do the entire job. Tact is, therefore, vitally
Telephone use presents an added problem for the
person who has difficulty with the English language or
who has a speech defect. The same consideration should
be shown to such a person over the phone as when
talking face to face.
Perhaps the guiding principle when using the
telephone should be to remember that you are not talking
to a telephone, but to a person.
There is a story of a New York plumber who wrote
the Bureau of Standards at Washington that he had found
hydrochloric acid fine for cleaning drains. He then asked
if it was harmless. Washington replied, The efficacy of
hydrochloric acid is indisputable, but the chlorine
residue is incompatible with metallic permanence.
The plumber wrote back that he was glad the Bureau
agreed with him. The Bureau replied with a note of
alarm, We cannot assume responsibility for the
production of toxic and noxious residues with
hydrochloric acid, and suggest that you use an alternate
The plumber was happy to learn that the Bureau still
agreed with him.
Whereupon Washington exploded, Dont use
hydrochloric acid; it will definitely eat the pipes!
A federal law or a Navy policy about a specific
subject is issued in the form of an official publication.
The publication uses specific language to show exactly
what the law or Navy policy is intended to permit or
prevent. It addresses the reader who is familiar with that
subject, so a person having a limited knowledge or
experience in that subject may misunderstand the
information given. Your job as a contact representative
may require that you explain information contained in
these publications. Your explanations should leave no
doubt in the customers mind about the intent of the
The advantage you will have over the Bureau of
Standards, as described in the above story, is
face-to-face communications. You can watch for
gestures and facial expressions that tell you if the
customer understands your explanation. If needed, you
can then rephrase your explanation.
FILLING OUT FORMS
Sometimes the supply of forms a Navy member
must fill out seems endless. You are familiar with the
forms used at your contact point as well as their purpose
and how to prepare them. Therefore, you may easily
forget how frustrating they can be to the customer.
The Navy has forms for every purpose-and good
reasons for them. A form provides information required
for certain actions. You may view the forms used at your
contact point as self-explanatory, but the customer may
view them as perplexing. That is particularly true for a
person who has been in the Navy only a relatively short
Filling out a form can be doubly frustrating if after
completing it, the customer receives it back with the
words, Do it over. You filled it out wrong. To avoid
having to ask someone to fill out a form a second time,
take a little extra time with that customer. Before the
customer ever begins to fill out the form, explain any
items that might be misunderstood. The extra effort will
save you time because the customer is more likely to
complete the form correctly.
EXPLAINING FUTURE STEPS
Quite often when the customer comes to you for
help or advice, you will only be able to provide partial
assistance at that time; you will have to take additional
action later. You need to explain to the customer what
that action will be. Be sure that both you and the
customer agree on and understand who will initiate the
future action. The customer should have no doubts about
WHAT must be done, WHEN it should be done, and
WHO is to get it started. You should have no doubts