Saturday, March 4, 2017

Soapbox: Communication

In the 19th-century and early 20th-century cardboard boxes didn't exist.  Instead, wooden crates were used for shipping goods.  Discarded crates could be found easily in most areas.  These "soapboxes" made great platforms for those who had a message to share. These messages were most often political or religious in nature.  Today's equivalent could be a blog.  

Pardon me while I turn my crate over and step up...

As a high school student, I was a member of the forensics team.  (No, not the CSI-type forensics.  Forensic meaning argumentative or rhetorical.)  I had an incredible coach who made a huge impact on my life.  She was and continues to be one of the most influential people in my life.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about her and use something that she taught me all those years ago.  (Thank you, Gladys Robertson!)  

Ms. Robertson taught me that words have power, a lot of power, and you have to understand how to use them to properly harness that power.  She taught me to love words and research.  (Your words are only as good as the knowledge behind them.)  I never doubted my ability to learn and to communicate effectively with her guidance.  This spurred me on to pursue a degree in communication.  

Maybe it's all the hours and money I spent learning about communication, maybe it's the SJ detail oriented part of me, or most likely a combination of the two but I find communication absolutely vital.   Clear and effective communication is necessary in every aspect of life.  You must communicate to have healthy personal relationships.  If businesses plan to succeed effective communication with employees and customers is crucial.  This is true no matter what industry (the church world is no exception).

My greatest headaches over the last two - three weeks have all stemmed from a lack of communication.  In December our house was broken into and several things were stolen.  I promptly filed all the reports and jumped through all of the hoops that the insurance company asked for to settle the claim.  It was supposed to take 2-3 days for an adjuster to contact me.  After two weeks I called to inquire about why this hadn't happened yet.  Several days later I was contacted.  I had already done everything the adjuster asked about.  Several weeks went by again with no communication and I started contacting them again.  It took several days and calls and emails to several different people to get the adjuster to contact me.  His response, "I have been out of the office."  It's been several more weeks and again no communication.  I am no closer to having this claim settled than I was in December.  And, yes I did pull the "my child is waiting for open heart surgery and I don't need this hanging over me" card.  It did not help.  

In case you are not aware, there is such a thing as an away response on your email.  I get them all them time from other people that say they are away and when to expect a reply or who to contact in the interim.  It is also quite easy to change your voicemail to communicate this information.  Well, Nationwide you have lost this customer.  As soon as this claim is settled we will be dropping your coverage.  We will be dropping our local agent as well due to communication issues.  

In late January, Reese started at a new karate school.  Because of all the wonderful things I had heard in the past about this school I was excited for him to try it out.  We've been there about six weeks now and there has been no consistency with the instructors (a different one a least once a week) and no consistency with the classes.  Last month we showed up for class and the doors were locked and no lights on.  It was a school holiday so I assumed that I missed a memo that they don't have class when there is no school.  Apparently, that isn't the case because they haven't been closed on the holidays since that one.  Last week I drove the 25 minutes (one way) to the karate school both days to find it locked and lights off.  We pay $100 a month for the classes.  They can figure out a way to notify me that there is no class.  Ironically, both times last week I intended to tell them to stop the bank draft because we would not be returning. The company they use for the bank draft won't return my phone calls either.

As if that wasn't frustrating enough, we are still waiting for word about Brinkley's upcoming surgery.  If you have missed that information, his pacemaker is damaged and has to be replaced.  We discovered this in early February but learned that the damage actually occurred in December.  At that time we were given an appointment two weeks out for preliminary tests with surgery to follow later in the week.  Due to Brinkley getting sick the preliminary work was done but the surgery was postponed.  They didn't communicate this to me and I never saw or spoke to a member of the cardiology staff.  After debating if I need to continue to stay in the area of the hospital (3 hours from home) or return to my family I called to find out what the plan was.  At that time I was told the surgery would be postponed two weeks and they would call me to schedule.  The following week we saw our local cardiologist and he didn't know much more than I did so he made a call and put the MUSC doctor on speaker phone.  I was then told surgery would be 6-8 weeks out and they would have a conference about Brinkley later that week.  

On Tuesday of this week, our Greenville doctor called to check in with us.  He made a few calls and called me back later in the day to tell me that the conference didn't happen until Monday and that they needed to clarify something with the surgeon before scheduling.  He was told they would contact me Wednesday or Thursday.  (He is currently out of town.  Imagine that, he told me he would be away and who to contact if I needed something.)   When I hadn't heard anything midday Thursday I started making phone calls to MUSC.  It's Saturday and none of those calls have been returned.  

I am a little more than disappointed with the lack of communication.  At this point my son's tiny heart is not working properly, he is in need of surgery and you can see the effects in his color, oxygen saturations, and his energy level.  If they drag this out until next month we will be pushing the six-month mark since his heart worked properly.  That can not be a good thing.  

Before I step off my crate and return it to the scrap pile let me urge you to communicate.  You can never over communicate!  A simple email or phone call is often the difference between a customer/friend for life and a huge disaster and disappointment.  People deserve to know where they stand (especially if their health or money is involved).  As the service provider, you owe your customers the common courtesy of acknowledging them and your attempts to serve them.  In most cases, they have plenty of other options of providers.  It should be considered an honor that they trusted you enough to choose you.  They are going to be your best advertisement either way.  Good or bad, it's your choice.  Choose wisely!  


  1. Well said! You have so much patience and are one of the best ladies\Mommy\Friend\Advocate I know. I know this is so frustrating especially not know when surgery will take place. I have never understood why medical staff don't get that communication with parents and patient is the key to calmness and knowledge and understanding help easy some of the stress and anxiety of a upcoming surgery. Praying for you to gets some answers ASAP!

  2. Well said. I am so sorry that Brink isn't getting the proper care to improve his situation.
    And, I don't understand the problem with this insurance adjuster. Talk to Tiffany Barnes at church, she can assist you with insurance.

    1. Tiffany has been giving me advice through the process and we have every intention of dropping the current company and going with her as soon as all of this is resolved.