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Effective communication for the frontline

I think we can all agree that almost every job in today's modern world requires the employee to have a certain level of communication skills. It becomes even more important if he has to interface with a very rough John Public on a daily basis. Unfortunately frontline persons who come into immediate contact with the rest of us and our potential and existing customers are not usually well paid. And many times they do not know that in order to succeed in their job they need to be effective communicators. Have you ever had to deal with a rude receptionist or law enforcement officer? Do you ever wonder how they were hired in the first place? Is it that their names were picked from a box?

The Jamaican Policeman

The task of law-enforcement is not for the faint-hearted, especially in our fair isle today. Read the headlines. Crime has gone high-tech and its reach has widened. It has definitely been a long time since a baton and swift legs were the only tools to get the job done. Today's cop has to be able to fast-talk any and every fast-talking motorist who knows that he has broken all the rules in the handbook but 'a beg a blye'. The ace crime-fighter has to be an articulate, 'head-firmly-planted-on-his-shoulders' kinda man or woman. Embracing the Queen's English on a daily basis is a must if you are a law enforcement officer. We pay you your salary and we are very hard taskmasters and so we insist that you are at the very least polite in your approach to us. There have been some improvements over the years in the communication skills of our policemen and yes, we know yours is a tough job but, it also helps to be a patient listener.

The police force has got the media locked but it is my opinion that it does not know the power that it wields. Almost everyone dubs the evening news, 'Crime Time News' because of the nature of the content. And yet, the Force has not embraced the fact that since the face of Jamaican law enforcement appears on prime time television news every night (when most people, we are told, are glued to the tube) they should grab the opportunity and make use of the prime time as their soap box. Use their most articulate spokesmen to hammer home key messages about crime alleviation. Do not just read from the script, telling us that there was a shoot-out and the gun was found when the smoke cleared. Every seven-year-old basic school student knows that by heart. Think outside the box and use every 'crime time incident' broadcast as a way of getting your message out to us.

Security Guards

Yes, they are here to stay whether we like them or not. Over the last twenty years or so their presence has become endemic. Opening gates, writing our names in scruffy-looking notebooks, thrusting well-worn parking cards (God only knows in what crevices and reaches some of them -- the cards -- have been) into our hands. These are part of the job description of these worthy men and women. Many times their faces are the first ones you see when you enter a business place and you might be encouraged to enter or hightail it out of that establishment depending on the reception you get from them. Because of the sensitive position that they hold for most businesses I am sure our business owners have invested much in ensuring that the communication skills of security guards they hire are adequate if not top-notch. Yeah, right.

Believe it or not these employees are excellent judges of where you fall on the social ladder and waste no time in treating you accordingly. Drive up to the gate in a late-model car, badly in need of a wash and some tender care, and you will be treated just like your vehicle. Travel in an X-5 or a Mercedes Benz (even if it is borrowed) and you will be held in high esteem: they will all but offer you valet parking. Some of the skills that these personnel need: listening to enquiries from customers and responding with proper and polite directions (not just pointing) and being on familiar terms with the English language. Not that they should have done a Master's or a first degree in the language, but having more than a passing acquaintance is heartening. Plus, no one really cares if you have had a bad night, (so did I), I still expect to hear a good morning or good day when I roll up to you.

The Receptionist/Telephone Operator

This job should be one of the higher-paying ones in any company. It is the first point of contact and so can encourage potential business. The person who occupies this position, depending on how effective their communication skills, can either make or break your business. A chief requirement is for this employee to have an 'on-air voice'. If the person's voice sounds like Miss Mirrie's donkey on a bad day, Mickey Mouse on speed or is apt to sound quarrelsome - find him or her another position in the organisation. It also helps if the receptionist (male or female) is easy on the eyes. While I would never ever discriminate against those of us who are not too attractive, I think it is important to choose carefully in the looks department when assigning your frontline person to greet your customers.


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