Foreign Language

Jeff McLanahan
Contributing Writer
Service Experts/Enercare in North America

Humorist Dave Barry once said, “Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.”

The term, foreign language, can have several different meanings.  For example, about forty years ago, well before the fall of communism, a traveler named Jim visited the Soviet Union as part of a cultural exchange group.  After the long, tiring flight, he checked into his modest room at a state-run hotel in Leningrad and got ready to turn in for the night.

Feeling anxious about getting up on time for the next day’s breakfast meeting, Jim called the front desk to arrange a wake-up call for 7am.  At first, there was a bit of confusion about his request, but eventually the operator seemed to understand the message.

Sure enough, the next morning the phone in Jim’s room rang promptly at the designated time.  Emerging from deep, jet-lagged sleep, he picked up the receiver and put it to his ear.  Before he could even say hello, a thickly accented, gravelly woman’s voice on the other end of the line bellowed, “Get up!”  A split second later, he heard only the drone of the dial tone.

This story could serve as a wake-up call for us.  Do we sometimes speak a foreign language to our teams?  Do they understand what we are saying or are they just nodding their head?  As we know, acronyms are used frequently in our day-to-day language.  Every company seems to share several common acronyms as well as have a list that is unique to their specific business.  This language can be very confusing to new employees and everyone on the team needs to be aware when they begin speaking “acronym-ese” with new members of the team.

Can you imagine what a new employee is thinking when they hear this message from a manager, “As a CSR, you will attend NEO and learn how to use LAST to interact with customers that are calling with issues.  When you begin working with the POS system, you will need to know the current LTO so you do not affect our NPS.”

With the growing diversity of our workforce, we may have some issues with actually speaking a foreign language also.

These two instances are more reasons to conduct an effective NEO – New Employee Orientation.  The NEO course begins the process of introducing a new CSR – Customer Service Representative to your business, not to mention your acronym library.  While it may not include all of the acronyms (that might take several hours), it may be used to introduce many of them.

Make sure that you are speaking to your team in a language they understand.  Be clear when communicating your expectations, and ask questions to check for retention of the information.  Make the initial investment with your team and you will reap the benefits in the weeks, months and years to come.

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