January 31, 2022

Reading time minutes

Taken for granted: The gift of hearing

When you have something, especially for a long time, it’s easy to take it for granted. I did. And when I realized what had happened, it changed me.

Photo of Brenda Kirk

Brenda Kirk

VP of Sales, Americas

Brenda Kirk gives a speech in front of a large screen.

If you google the phrase “things we take for granted,” you’ll find blogs, Pinterest boards and even university theses on the topic. Most people mention things they profoundly appreciate.

For me, the thing most people take for granted is something I didn’t see on anyone else’s list: The gift of hearing. I pick this for a good reason. I had a unique childhood. I grew up with two deaf parents.

I could sign before I could talk. I also thought it was normal to read TV, not listen to it. Therefore, I have a keen appreciation for this sense that many of us have and take for granted — I truly understand what it’s like to have the gift of hearing.

And what it’s like not to.

What is real communication?

I have little trouble communicating with people who are hard of hearing, it comes naturally. And yet, I’ve experienced some of the most accomplished people I’ve ever met — physicians, teachers and specialists — at a complete loss when trying to communicate with my parents, even though there are methods to make it easy. Because it is not always easy.

The clichés are true. Yelling and screaming, there’s a lot of that. Say it louder, it may bust through the deafness! People really do that. Not only do they assume the deaf person heard them, they assume that person understood them, too.

I remember when a doctor entered my mom’s hospital room — he was a lovely and very accomplished Pulmonologist. With his back to my mother, he carefully reviewed the bedside monitors and notes and talked to her about his findings. He let her know that she shouldn’t worry, he’d be back a little later to check in on her, and off he went.

A few problems. He never turned around to look at my mom and he certainly didn’t see the beautiful sign on the foot of her bed that read: “Hi, I am deaf. Please be sure I am looking at you when you speak to me.”

So he’s gone. My mom waved at me and asked, “Who was that?”

Sometimes it’s hard to explain, so I said, “He’s the computer guy. I’m sure he’ll be right back.”

I’ve seen individuals get quite frustrated trying to communicate with my parents, trying everything from charades to full-on Broadway productions. Often they forget one simple thing — my parents are deaf. But like most deaf people, they can read. The individuals trying to communicate with them could have simply written what they wanted to say. Sometimes, the methods we put in place don’t always work. And that’s ok.

But there are three things I always want to get across when I see people in this sort of situation with my mom. Here they are:

  • She desires to “hear” you

  • There are different methods to successfully communicate with her

  • She will take action once she understands

Why am I sharing this all with you? In my role as VP of Strategy at Hyland, I spend a lot of time thinking about communication and how vital that is. One of my most important responsibilities includes ensuring that every person in our company “hears” your voice, whether you’re a customer or a partner. We pride ourselves on the experience we provide to customers and partners — it’s something the industry recognizes us for quite often. And we’re committed to working hard to protect this.

Although it seems like it should be a simple thing, that isn’t always the case. We are continuing to grow. There are around 1,800 of us at Hyland, and we have more than 13,000 lifetime customers. And yes, we know we sometimes have trouble hearing you.

You might be dealing with some difficult issues, which result in a tech support call or an enhancement request, but then you wonder why we’re not understanding how these are related and how they’re symptoms of a bigger issue. When you try to communicate that and feel like you’re not getting a reaction, I know this can be very frustrating.

Three steps to operational success: Desire, methods, action

If any single one of you ever feel like this, I want to get across the same three things:

  1. We desire to hear you

  2. There are different methods we’ve put in place to hear you

  3. We will take action once we understand

This all sounds great in theory, but let’s take a deeper dive to see how we put action behind our words.

1. Our desire to hear you

We all know the expression “ignorance is bliss.” You can always be happy — unless you know something to the contrary. Usually, that’s the truth.

My father died when I was 10, so my mom raised three rebellious teenage girls by herself. You might think there were things she didn’t want to hear about us, and while there will be things she will never hear, she did (and does) have a desire to hear everything.

Why did she want this information — the good, the bad AND the ugly? Like most moms, she wanted the best for us.

At Hyland, we strive to do things well, and it’s really satisfying when we hear great feedback like, “Hyland is the best vendor partner we have ever had.”

But it’s tough to hear feedback that demonstrates we aren’t doing so well. Like, “I’m not sure I would recommend Hyland. They did not even want to listen.”

Believe me, we hear that. Loud and clear. And we’re working on it. I’m working on it.

We also pride ourselves on our industry-leading 98 percent customer retention rate. It’s a company goal each and every year to maintain this unbelievable standard. We do so while thinking about the two percent we did not do so well with; clearly, there is something missing there. We know we didn’t do the best we could to hear what these customers were trying to tell us. We work to recover these customers whenever we have the opportunity and we talk to these people when we can, to understand what we did to lose them.

Then we apply those lessons to become a better partner for the 98 percent who continue to be so important to the OnBase Community.

You might think we don’t want to hear these things. NOT TRUE.

Why? Because we really want to be the very best for you. We want to know your issues so we can do something about them. Sometimes we need your help. From my perspective, there is always something to be heard. Your voice is important.

Because we have such a strong desire to hear you, we’re constantly working on methods to make it easy for you to communicate with us. Take advantage of that, please.

2. Methods

In a perfect world, we would have regular face-to-face conversations with you to make sure that we are listening to you and understand what’s going on. As I mentioned earlier, the ratio of 13,000 customers to 1,800 employees presents a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

For example, because my parents were not able to hear, they put methods in place to help them understand what was going on around them:

  • The doorbell was not attached to a bell, but a light

  • Telephone conversations used TTY, where the deaf typed to one another

  • Instead of saying, “Excuse me,” to get someone’s attention, we threw things or stomped our feet hard enough to make the floor vibrate

For our friends and family, learning how to use these methods was important. In fact, the three rebellious teenagers in that house became so familiar with the deaf world that we saw an opportunity to demonstrate our rebellion against the school attendance policy. I would “type” myself out of school. But we can talk more about my truancy issues later.

We know it can be difficult to communicate with us as a company, so we too have put in place methods to help us be sure we understand what’s going on. Here are a few:

  • A Dedicated Customer Experience Team

  • Utilizing the Net Promoter System

  • Community Forums

  • Technical Support call surveys

  • Partner Surveys

We’re also continuing to support and expand the traditional communication vehicles like live chat, phone and email while still holding an open door policy with our executive team. I can’t encourage you enough – for the good, the bad and the ugly. Please use these methods – or any other method that works well for you — to communicate with us and your partners.

We expect that we’ll get some painful feedback. When we do, we still have a choice as to whether we choose to hear it or not. As a teenager, I may have unplugged the light a time or two when I knew the school was going to call. But I can assure you, we won’t be unplugging any lights at Hyland.

Now that we’ve talked about our desire to communicate and the methods we’ve put in place to hear you, all that’s left is taking action on the feedback we receive.

3. Action

I remember the first stereo my family purchased. Growing up in a mostly quiet house, when we finally got a stereo, it was pretty cool. Since my parents were deaf, they didn’t quite understand the concept of music.

So, with deaf parents, what do you do? Turn Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits up as loud as it will go! Until our neighbors came and told my dad our music was loud. We told him it wasn’t. On and on it went. Eventually, my dad came upstairs and outsmarted us – he put his hand on the speaker. Once he understood what was going on, that was the end of the stereo.

So what action have we taken as a result of your feedback when we’ve realized there is an issue?

One of the feedback highlights I shared was “I wouldn’t recommend Hyland. They didn’t even want to listen.”

That was an excerpt from feedback we received from Marty at Grinnell Mutual Insurance. Marty took the time and significant effort to be sure that we understood exactly the impacts of what we thought were clever enhancements to workview had on the environment at Grinnell. Based on her efforts, we were able to address an issue that might have affected many other customers; we were able to improve OnBase and become a better company to partner with.

Thank you Marty.

There were lots of customers that provided us with great feedback this past year and some of that contributed to high priority efforts underway — including, but not limited to:

  • Launching My OnBase Planner
  • Tracking customer certifications
  • Creating better support roles, like Technical Account Managers
  • Continuing to enhance Community

It’s all about you

I started by talking about lists of things people take for granted. One thing that will never make my list of things we take for granted at Hyland is you — every customer and partner that make up the OnBase Community.

You truly are the reason why we are here, so we’re going to make sure we hear you. Loud and clear.