Customer-Focused Verbs


How would verb replacement affect organizations such as the three I described above? Let's revisit these three organizations and see what transpired:

  • I urged the project manager in the first organization to talk with her customer about the usefulness of the status reports. In doing so, she learned that he saw the status reports as a mishmash of little geometric symbols and technical jargon in tiny type. Not finding any value in the reports, he simply ignored them. Thus enlightened, the project manager invited several members of the customer department to help create a communication process to ensure open communication and enable the two parties to stay in synch. Included in that effort was a discussion of what status information was most useful and how best to communicate it. With a new approach that they all agreed to, get was no longer needed.
  • Alerted to his misuse of the "get" verb, the IT manager in the second organization held a meeting with his team about their customers' unreasonable demands. In the course of their conversation, they came to realize that the requests declared as unreasonable were likely reasonable from the customers' perspective—from a business perspective, not a technical perspective. They agreed to banish unreasonableness from their vocabulary by soliciting more information from their customers earlier in the project. This gave them a better frame of reference in which to understand their customers' requests.
  • The technical staff in the third organization came to realize that they had no chance of creating a partnership with their customers as long as they defined partnerships as, "Let's agree to do things my way." They also came to accept that actions speak louder than often meaningless words. The transition to a "we're in this together" relationship wasn't instantaneous. It wasn't even quick. But once they started trying to understand, appreciate, and respect their customers' concerns (three other great verbs), their customers became more accommodating as well. No one called it a partnership, but thanks to a few verbs, that's exactly what began to evolve.

Are your verbs contributing to productive relationships or interfering with them? Could it be that a little verb adjustment is in order?

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at or via her Web site,

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