In many ways, this blog is a rant. It is an avenue to vent frustration as all other avenues have been exhausted. That said, on the bright side – it has provided a reinforcement to the notion that clear communication is vital when dealing with people.

To set the scene, I was at the airport recently and we were going through the ‘gate process’. As we were boarding (the airline will remain nameless) we were held at the door of the plane, we could see our seats, but were not allowed to step foot onboard. The people at the gate had not informed the people on the plane. It was not ready. We were sent back to the gate – to wait as ‘something’ needed to be sorted. The staff at the gate did not know what the ‘something’ was. When eventually let back onto the plane, there was a lengthy delay as we were in our seats. The captain came on to inform us that we were waiting for the maintenance team to fix ‘something’. Much longer passed, and we were then ordered off the plane as the same ‘something’ could not be fixed.

It was at this point that rumors started. Was it the entertainment system, the air conditioning, the engines – there was definitely ‘something’ not right but no answers to what it was. I am not a nervous flyer but I must confess that after a couple of hours of delay and vague (and contradicting) explanations, your mind does start to wonder. Others were starting to get angry as there was a lack of information. It is not the gate staff’s fault that the plane was not working, but as they are the front-line staff, they are dealt the most questions. In a world where a simple search on your phone brings up most of life’s questions – we have become accustomed to instant information. That said – what we are also accustomed to heading to social media to vent frustrations. Whilst I did not….I am certain that others on the flight started e-ranting!

In a world where a simple search on your phone brings up most of life’s questions – we have become accustomed to instant information

This all points to a lack of communication from the airline. The captain must have known roughly what was wrong so he could direct the maintenance staff. The maintenance staff must have known roughly what was wrong as they were trying to fix it! Someone needed to inform the gate staff who in turn can tell the passengers.

Very often, people understand that sometimes not everything runs smoothly. Sometimes during fieldwork our projects do not always run precisely as we expected. If there is no information, then people start to wonder? They start to feel the worst and more worryingly they start to blame people. Why have you not done this or that?! However, there are 3 simple steps to avoiding most of the issues that you will have when it comes to communication.

  1. Identify the issue and clearly articulate this to the client – remove all jargon and just make this simple
  2. There is no point in just telling clients what the problem is – also clearly highlight what you are going to do about. What are you going to change to fix it.
  3. How long will it take to fix the issue.

To end on a happier note, it is good to be reminded of what can happen if companies get things wrong. It is good that others can make the errors to remind the rest of us of the importance of not doing the same. So please, whatever you do – make sure your clients (whoever they are) know what you are doing and why!