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What Is The Cost Of Misunderstanding?

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It depends on what you do for a living or the importance of the relationship. We won’t talk about professions where lives are at stake. But what about jobs like sales clerks, baristas, bank managers or writers? What does it cost a company if their customers (an important relationship, don’t you think?) are misunderstood by the sales or service team? What is the cost of missing business? I have been thinking a lot about this lately. Misunderstanding lurks around every corner and is the order of business in most meetings.



“Mistakes happen in all walks of life, after all we're only human. However, mistakes made in the business world often occur because employees do not fully understand their job. These misunderstandings are often avoidable, but can be catastrophic to an organization - both in terms of cost to the bottom line, but also in terms of brand, reputation and customer satisfaction.” (2008 IDC Research)


Research has been done on this. Believe me…believe them, it costs a boat load! Why does all this misunderstanding happen? I think it’s because:

  1. We all have our “history” that colors how we see, hear, talk and understand each other.
  2. We hear things differently, because we filter things differently. We speak in terms we understand, but not necessarily in terms that others understand.
  3. We don’t have the time to check and make sure our message is heard the way we thought we delivered it. Can you say, email?
  4. We dislike delivering messages that could hurt someone’s feelings so we put “pillows” around it and never really say what needs to be said.

All of these misunderstandings happen through missing or failed conversations. You can deliver the message in a way that is understood and enhances the relationship. I firmly believe this. How can businesses teach their employees to communicate in a way that their customers, team members, vendors, partners and leaders will understand them?

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