Do customers believe you?

I’m here to take care of you.

I’m going to do everything in my power to keep you safe and see you through this.

You are my number 1 priority.

This is my customer experience as I’m wheeled into the ICU, greeted by nurse Juanita.

As important as these powerful first words was her tone of voice. It was the voice of conviction. And her eyes that held my own. I believed her.

Somehow she knew of the EMT paramedics’ comment in the ambulance. She assured me that all was not lost. But she needed my attention and cooperation for as long as I could maintain consciousness.

Sometimes there is a need for deference, for receptivity in how we relate to those we are serving. Sometimes its the opposite: they need our direction, our utmost conviction.

In times of distress, how do we meet the anxiety of our customers? How do we determine whether to give deference or direction?

This depends on our customers’ role expectations. It varies from ICU nurse to customer service agent, of course.

So while our response will be situational, one aspect ought be universal: all the ways in which we communicate deference or direction need consistently line up. We need to believe it before our customers.

Nurse Juanita expressed 100% congruence in words, tone of voice, and body language. It all lined up. This congruence, this consistency is what Al Mehrabian described as effective and meaningful communication according to his 7%-38%-55% Rule.

Belief doesn’t just come from words, from an optimal script. If your words communicate something different from your voice or body, you’ll end up with customer disbelief.

if I don’t have cake soon,

I might die.