That thing about communicating face to face…

Last week I was speaking at AccountingToday’s Growth and Profitability Summit in sunny Florida. While I was there, I experienced a great example of just how important face-to-face communication is.

I’m sure you’ve seen the little eco-friendly card in a hotel room, the one that says “if you hang up your towel that means you want to re-use it.” The one that every single hotel I’ve ever stayed at categorically ignores. Well, I like to be friendly to the environment, and I always hang up my towel. I always hope the housekeeper might actually see this as an undeniable signal of my desire to save the planet, one hotel towel at a time. But they never seem to.

This (fancy, gated) hotel, however, was different. To my surprise and delight, I came back to my room after the first full day of the conference, and my towel was still on the hook! This same hotel also has a texting system, so I had received an invitation to use texting as a way of communicating with them. I decided this would be my opportunity to try it out, I mean, who doesn’t like to receive a little positive feedback in a stream of faceless complaints?

And so I messaged:

Thank you for being the first hotel ever to actually leave my towel on the rack to reuse instead of replacing it!

Do you know what they replied with?

Ms. Rampe I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience I will have some towels delivered to your room right away. –Natasha

Total fail. Was it my fault? Their fault? Society’s fault for being so sarcastic in general that this was taken the wrong way? I’ll let you take your own position on that.

Next time you are deciding whether to send someone an electronic message, or give them a call (or talk in person) – don’t forget the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your message is conveyed with facial expression, tone of voice, gestures, etc. Take that away and you’re left with words that are increasingly easy to misinterpret.

My consequence for delivering ineffective feedback? By the time I got back from dinner I had four extra towels in my room (in addition to the existing four).  Which leaves me with today’s four-word-takeaway:

Pick Up The Phone.