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Giving Simple Explanations
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Navy Customer Service Manual
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Explaining Results of Actions
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 can’t 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 important. 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. COMMUNICATING CLEARLY 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 procedure.” The plumber was happy to learn that the Bureau still agreed  with  him. Whereupon   Washington   exploded,   “Don’t   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 customer’s mind about the intent of the information. 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 time. 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 3-19

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