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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

In The Shop:Still Learning To Talk

Nov 24, 2011

 Duh. Just this week it struck me that I need to slow down when I talk to customers, and think twice about the words I use. 

I was shopping for a smart phone, talking with a nice young man who obviously knew his stuff. He knew his stuff so well he assumed I knew more than I did. He lost me within 15 seconds. He talked fast about things I didn't understand, using words and abbreviations that meant nothing to me. I left without a smart phone, annoyed at him and angry at myself for being too dumb to keep up with him.

The next day I was working with a customer, talking about repairs to his machine, and realized he had the same look on his face that I probably had when the young guy tried to explain smart phones to me. I had a long list of repairs, bopped through the list as quickly as possible and used terms like "SCVs" and "potentiometers" because that's what us guys in the shop call them. His eyes glazed over and he looked annoyed.

So I mentally took a deep breath, slowed down, and let him catch up. I've known the guy for years, and he's way smarter than me, but I was talking about things I deal with every day. He deals with the terminology and concepts only once or twice a year when he has to talk with me about fixing that particular piece of equipment. I quit using the initials SCV (selective control valve) when I was talking about hydraulic couplers on the back of the tractor. When I referred to potentiometers on the machine, I just called them "sensors." I made a point of not jumping to the next topic/repair until he had time to ask a question, make a comment or at least nod that he understood what I was talking about.

Things went a lot better after that. It took a lot longer, and my boss is going to have a fit when he sees the extra time on my time card, but I think the customer left feeling like he understands what I'm doing to his machine and why I'm doing it.

I'm going to try to be more aware of how I talk when I discuss repairs with customers. I don't want anybody leaving our shop feeling as annoyed as I did when I left that store last weekend, without a smart phone and feeling stupid. 


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