Do you believe that the person you’re on the phone with can hear you smile? I thought that was about the nuttiest thing I’d ever heard when Jimmy Lee instructed us to smile whenever we picked up the phone, even if it was to change our voice mail greeting. Which, by the way, we were instructed to update daily. Well, like anything else I don’t really want to believe, I started looking for ways to disprove it. Funny thing was, I discovered that I could indeed tell if people on the phone were smiling or not. Facial muscular contractions add a recognizable inflection to your speech. Also, it feels good. I dare you to try it.
That was a long time, and a couple of career direction changes ago, but it’s always stuck with me. You can even frame it in terms of economy: It costs you nothing to be nice. The costs of NOT being nice, however, can be great. If you’re not nice to your spouse, you can end up in the doghouse. If you’re not nice to your kids, you can end up in one of those nursing homes that “20/20” or “Dateline” does stories about. And, of course, if you’re not nice to your customers, someone else will be (and that could be your competition.)
Anyone who drives to work knows that companies who provide field service LOVE to use their vehicles as rolling advertisements. We’ve all seen trucks & vans emblazoned with logos, websites, and, of course, the company’s phone number. They even pay extra to register those vehicles because of all this decoration. I know this, because a couple of career direction changes after I learned to smile on the phone, I had to employ that smile when talking to callers who were upset about the way the service technicians in my charge were driving. I’ll use truck numbers to protect the innocent…and others: C239 sped a LOT. Even after we installed GPS “tattlers” in the trucks. He had a radar detector, and he was incorrigible. C236 also sped, and weaved in and out of traffic. He didn’t last long. His replacement in C236 cut someone off on the highway once. When he returned to the shop, he came directly to me and told me about it – the other car was in his blind spot, and he was so genuinely contrite, I actually felt bad for him. I’m pretty sure that never happened again. Then, one particularly irate caller told me G33 stuck his middle finger up at him. Just like you can tell if someone’s smiling, you sometimes know when they’re lying too: there was a little too much righteous indignation in the caller’s voice, and besides, G33 was a kindly, thoughtful gentleman in every sense of the word. I’m not sure he even knew how to give someone The Finger.
Once in a blue moon, a call brought a legitimate safety concern to light. The vast majority pertained to courtesy issues. I started talking about this at our weekly meetings, usually to a room full of rolled eyes and sarcastic smirks. But it started to sink in. C239 never slowed down, but one time, someone called to tell me that, despite the caller’s inattention to his rapidly approaching exit, C239 seemed to go out of his way to slow down & let the caller merge. I thought he had the wrong truck number, but the GPS tattler confirmed it: C239, the incorrigible speed demon, was capable of a simple act of courtesy. I assure you, gentle reader, if C239 can do it, so can you.
Smile when you pick up the phone. We can tell. Let that poor fella who’s not paying attention merge. It’s only adding a fraction of a second to your commute. A little courtesy goes a long way. Even if it doesn’t make you feel good (and that would be a real shame, because this is the low-hanging fruit of feel-good moments), the other person is probably feeling good enough for both of you.
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