This past Friday night, my teenaged son and I traveled to Nashville, TN, to see the University of Tennessee Volunteers play football against the University of Virginia.
We stayed at a Hilton hotels property that night and, upon check-in, the front desk attendant asked if she could have my mobile phone number to put on my profile.
As someone who, for years, has stayed at many Hilton properties, I knew where this seemingly simple request would lead.
Having been asked this many times before, if I simply said, “no, thank you,” she would most likely respond with something like, “well, we have to have it on the profile for communications purposes.”
So, I responded with what has become my rote answer: “I don’t have my mobile number on my profile because Hilton had it at one point and I received so many spam sales calls for timeshares and vacations I almost changed my phone number.”
She was not pleased. Although she didn’t say anything, her facial expressions communicated her frustration with me.
As we left the front desk and made our way to our room I could tell my son also was annoyed with how I handled the situation. “Why not just give her the number?” he asked.
Teenagers, of course, are known to be overly-sensitive to the potential of their parents publicly embarrassing them by doing things like, say, breathing too loud or smiling at strangers too much (and, as an aside, I take a good measure of joy in actually embarrassing them in public when I can!).
But, of course in this case, my aim was not for the interaction at the front desk to be edgy. As my son and I talked, I was prompted to reflect on how I could respond differently to that question in the future. I landed on simply saying, “I prefer you contact me via the email address I have on my profile.”
It’s direct and offers a communications solution. It isn’t an attempt to explain. It isn’t potentially confrontational. I wish I had put in the reflection time and thought of it sooner.
The flip side of this interaction, though, also offered a reminder for me: The questions we ask frame the responses we receive. In this instance, a far more productive question to have asked me would have been, “I see you stay at many Hilton hotel properties, is there a reason we don’t have a mobile number attached to your profile?”
This entire episode reminded me that responding to donor questions and asking well-framed questions ourselves constitute the art of our work. We become expert donor relations artisans when we are more nuanced than blunt, more sensitive than automatic, more deliberate than efficient, and more customized than common.
P.S. Yes, the Vols won! 🙂