As somebody who withstood 6 whole years of postsecondary education in Communication Studies, I get a wee distressed when a message doesn't make it to its recipient as intended. (Once a geek, always a geek.) Miscommunication has serious consequences, and this past little while has been all about discovering exactly what those consequences can be.
Exhibit A: (already discussed) Receiving condolences for long-past passings. Seriousness: Not very. It was nice to receive condolences, even though it had a been a year since my Baba passed away.
Exhibit B: (more recent) Being accused of putting an elderly gentleman in emergency for 8 hours! Seriousness: Very. Details to follow.
So... as most of you know by now, I am back in the wonderful world of non-profit organizations, and a big part of my (very important) job involves being extremely pleasant to everyone I encounter, in case they happen to be a significant contributor to our fundraising campaigns. You never know, right? Coworkers have joked that my job title should be 'Director of First Impressions', and in a big sense, they're right. If my phone mannerisms, appearance, or greeting skills in any way put a potential or ongoing donor off, it can mean huge consequences for the organization. In many cases, it could even cost the agency years of my salary in lost donations! Needless to say, I've been very careful thus far. There's no way I'd want to be incriminated if a large donor dropped out of our fundraising efforts. But on that note...
I answered the phone (very pleasantly and professionally) a short while ago, and proceeded to get ripped apart by somebody who thought he was phoning a country club and couldn't understand why the bloody hell I didn't know his tee-off time. (I had no idea what he was talking about and tried my hardest to be polite, in case he was a significant donor, but really-- I got yelled and sworn at for things that were in no way my own fault. Boo! Hiss!) Turns out he's donated enough money to pay my salary for the next ten years. (Aside: This just goes to show that, on the list of things that money can't buy, we should add 'good manners'.) Anyway, after we figured out who had been calling, I was assured that it was all a very unfortunate mistake and that the gentleman would be in to apologize to me within a few days.
When the gentleman did, in fact, come to apologize, I was stunned to discover that his apology quickly morphed into a not-so-subtle curse of eternal damnation. I was accused of not answering the phone with a cheerful 'good afternoon, Name of Place You Have Phoned' (Note: I totally did answer the phone with the name of the organization... I'm not an idiot.) Since I apparently neglected to tell him where he was phoning, he 'got confused' and thought he was phoning the country club. Fair enough... but then he goes on to tell me that he was worried about his confusion and thinks that it gave him a stroke! In his own words: "Incidentally, after I hung up the phone with you, I was in emergency for 8 hours getting tested for a stroke. I couldn't understand why I was so confused, but now I know it's because you didn't say I was phoning the [Charity-o-Rama]." Is it just me, or was that uncalled for? Serious miscommunication, I tell you. But seeing as he's an important donor and I'm just the new kid on the block, sickly ass-kissing prevails. Curses.