Most People Don’t Bother Listening


Women Listening

There have been several studies that show that on average, doctors let patients talk for about 23 seconds before interrupting. Some doctors interrupted after only three seconds. Once interrupted, patients are often times reluctant to go back to their story. In many instances, the doctor suggested something that then altered the patient’s explanation, frequently through the power of suggestion.

When I have a problem with something technical, I generally have done extensive troubleshooting before calling (or emailing) technical support. Usually my call is to confirm my findings and get help with a final resolution. I may even know how to resolve the problem but need the vendor to provide me a file or a replacement.

Now, I understand that the technical support staff have a process and a script that is important. I get that. However, I am amazed at how many times the support specialist does not even listen to the problem correctly. They spout off answers that I know to be clearly wrong, or the right answer to a different problem (just not my problem).

For some products, customer support is initially only available via email or their online website forms. I will describe not only the issue but also how I have tried all of their online instructions and even my own steps to isolate the issue. I may include my own diagnosis if I have one.

What is amazing to me is that it is common that the first response back is usually a generic email with links to the documents I just mentioned in my email; links to answers that I already told them don’t solve my problem. And I am not talking about auto-responders here, I’m talking about an email from a specific support specialist that may be 24 to 48 hours after my initial email.

Either no one read the email or they are just following orders to always send the generic response first. Meanwhile, I’m one to three days into a problem and still have not received meaningful help.

I’m sure you’ve had many similar experiences. So let me ask you this: How well do you, your department, or your company listen? How do you know? Is your organization one that others use as a good example or a bad example of customer service?

And lastly, if someone was trying to tell you about a problem in your organization, do you know how to really listen? And if you know how, will you?


Glenn S. PhillipsGlenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at

Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.

© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.