Are you big enough to communicate small?

Some of the best communicators I have met so far have been those who sought my help to communicate better. Wait a minute. That didn’t come out right. What I mean is they were good communicators before I appeared on the scene and remained so in spite of my attempts to help them.

They taught me that you are truly big when you communicate small.

If you let balance sheets, headlines and sundry others decide how you feel about another person, this is not for you. If your center of perception is closer to your heart than your head, you will understand what I mean.

Flower placed before open lipsOnce a monarch of the market, he was now a pathetic pauper. But, when I met him after three years, he still greeted me by name, asked about my wife by name, named both my sons and correctly guessed their grade. He remains a communication king in my heart.

If you think that was just a feat of memory, here is how the CEO of one of the country’s largest companies uses his secretary and a bit of technology to communicate small, big time.

I helped him with a few templates. Just by adding a name and changing a word or two, he converts those into very personal letters to suit every occasion—from congratulations to condolences. Before he starts a telephone conversation or his secretary ushers in a visitor, his database would bring up the gist of their last exchange—personal and professional.

Not rocket science. Works well for him, though.

She was not just a doctor, but a demigod. I was skeptical. She treated the same diseases and prescribed the same drugs like everyone else. Yet, people loved her and stayed put in her waiting room for hours. I was with one of her patients, when I realized the magic was not in her stethoscope.

She was 30 minutes late and my friend was in serious pain. Just then, he received a call. It was the doctor. She apologized, explained the delay and told him when she would reach. That call had a placebo-like effect. My friend settled down comfortably for a long wait. The doctor’s reputation was built on gestures like that two-minute call.

Talking of calls, I can never forget the Monday when I got a call from a very senior executive of a client organization. My regular contact was about five levels down the hierarchy, so this was a surprise. He took barely a minute to tell me that the presentation I had helped his team make was very impressive and did its job well. The glow of that minute still stays with me.

The irony? My contact, who is on the phone with me almost every day, thinks he is too busy to bother with mundane things like feedback. Unless, of course, I had made a Himalayan blunder. Or what was needed yesterday till that minute was now required the previous week.

I think my bank is beginning to grow up too. Yes, the same bank that has been top-of-the-charts for years. I am used to tiring cut-paste email responses when I post a complaint. This time, a live human being, who knew my name and my problem called up to admit they had not figured out a solution yet. Yesterday, he called again to say that bank had sorted out the issue.

Admitting a problem, taking the initiative to make a call and conducting a conversation with a customer without a script. Yes, my bank has suddenly grown big in my eyes.


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