Get On The Same Page

“We need to make sure we’re on the same page” is a statement you’ve probably heard many times and have even used yourself. However, members of companies, teams, families, and other groups are often not in the same book, let alone on the same page.
I spoke on the phone recently to three different customer service representatives of an insurance company. Using a typed script, I asked all three the same question. I received three significantly different answers – with an emphasis on “significantly different.” A couple of the answers were just the opposite of each other and the third was somewhere in-between. From St. Louis, Tampa, and Atlanta, they all responded convincingly, so I still don’t know the correct answer.  
After the experience with the insurance company, I asked a question from a typed script to three representatives of a financial institution in one county. Again, I received three different answers. Scary isn’t it? Just because someone tells you something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. And sometimes reps will say, “I’m not sure but I believe…” That’s when I usually politely tell the rep that I’d like to speak with a supervisor or someone who is sure. (I’m not really interested in basing a decision on what someone “believes” to be true.)
Companies are advised to make service a priority, yet employees often are not schooled in the basics of the company – or do not retain their schooling. Sometimes it appears as if reps are merely trying to get someone off the phone and just put in their time until 5:00 PM rather than really working to solve problems that customers bring to them.
Even when it is apparent the company has emphasized to employees the importance of striving to exceed customer expectations and make transactions pleasant, the employees often don’t have a thorough knowledge of the company’s products, services, and policies. They may handle things well until questions or problems arise. But during crunch time the reps are not able to deal with things promptly and courteously enough to provide satisfactory resolutions.
Sadly, through the years I have discovered that when some customer service reps don’t know the right answer to something they pretend they do know. In organizations with whom I have consulted, I have often advised reps that when they don’t know something they should steer clear of pretending they do. There is nothing wrong with replying, “That is a good question and I’m going to get the answer for you from one of our people who has expertise in that area.” I’ve even said that myself.
In a conference organization I had, I would sometimes field a question I would not respond to until I was certain that others in the organization would be comfortable with the supplied answer. So I would simply request the inquirer to allow me to check on the situation and get back in touch with him or her. I would then discuss it with others in my group to assure we had a consensus prior to phoning back with a response I knew everyone in our group was aware of and would uphold. 
Not being on the same page hurts all groups, whether the group consists of two thousand people or two people – or eleven. Ask former LSU football coach Lou Saban. Opposing Iowa quarterback Drew Tate threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Warren Holloway on the final play of the 2005 Capital One Bowl to deny Saban a triumphant sendoff to the Miami Dolphins in the NFL. Fifth-year senior Holloway was wide open when he made the improbable reception and scored the first touchdown of his career. Saban threw up his arms in frustration and later said, “The last few seconds of this game somewhat tarnish the things that this team has accomplished in its four years.” He went on to say, “Mental errors are a terrible way to lose, because that means the other guy didn’t really physically beat you. You really beat yourself.” He later added, “It was apparent on that last play everyone was not on the same page.”
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 2500 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including “A Strategy For Winning,” “People of Passion,” “Anatomy Of A Leader” and “Are We Communicating Yet?” are available in stores, at and….  


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