There was a calamity at the cottage recently. The bathroom developed a leak and fluids of varying degrees of unpleasantness started to drip through the sitting room ceiling.

I took a look behind some paneling and the floorboards and did not like what I saw. It was time to call in the professionals. We rang around and asked various people for recommendations, and finally a chap called Dave came round to measure up.

The doorbell rang.

“’Allo mate, Dave ******, me mates call me Dodgy Dave.”

“Hello Dave, I’m Jeff.”

<<thinks>> “Dodgy Dave?”<</thinks>>

He wore work jeans, had a hand rolled cigarette tucked behind his ear. In his hand, he carried a steel rule and a notebook. He portrayed an image that was every inch the dodgy cowboy builder. Had it not been for the fact that I know a little about building work (my father was a builder) and had seen some of his work, I would have been inclined to try another builder.

He priced up the work, we agreed on a price, and soon I hope to have a new guest bathroom.

The point of this is to demonstrate how you appear to your customers can be important. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

How does this concern a person whose contact is made on a phone line? Try ringing a few companies and see what impression they give. You will get people who sound as though it is all too much trouble. Other people sound bright and cheerful and, more importantly, as though they understand what they are saying.

My recent call to my bank left me wondering if the person on the other end of the line had understood anything I said. They didn’t use the simple tools, like checking understanding, until they had got into a real muddle and tried to summarise what I had said. It was a reasonably complex inquiry about the international transfer of funds, and eventually I got passed to another department. The person there was a specialist in international banking and proceeded to use so much industry jargon and so many acronyms that in the end, I wasn’t sure what I wanted either.

The trouble was that I wanted an answer more than the person wanted to give one. I went to the bank’s Web site to see if the answer was in their FAQ page. Again, no help. I’m glad I am not a banker, because it is so overcomplicated.