How Business Relationship Management Could Help You Chase the Right Balls
Yesterday I walked home through the park and watched someone throwing around a ball with his dog. Literally every time the guy first shaped to throw the ball, the dog ran off in the direction it expected the ball to go. Usually this was the wrong direction, because the dog owner then (knowingly) threw the ball in a different direction. I thought that’s pretty clever from the dog owner’s perspective, given that the whole purpose is to maximize the exercise his dog gets. And it got me thinking about business relationship management (BRM) – I know my mind works in mysterious ways. Let me explain.
You see, that dog’s actions reminded me so much of how we sometimes behave at work on the service desk. You know how it goes – before it’s even clear what the customer actually wants or needs, we go rushing off to address what we *think* they will ask for. It’s right for the dog and its owner, but wrong for us at work as we don’t need more running around – we need results with the least effort rather than the maximum.
When the dog has competition though, running alongside its doggy friends to reach the ball first, then accurate anticipation becomes a very powerful asset. Getting a start over the others by setting off in the right direction first means you are more likely to get to the ball. But going the wrong way ends up being even more damaging. So, the optimum is a balance between waiting to see and knowing what will happen.
A Balancing Act
And that balance is critical to those of us developing, delivering, and supporting IT services. When speed is important (and we can pretty safely assume that it is important to most of your customers most of the time these days), then we need to achieve that balance. I’ll explain how I think we can do this.
Just like with the dog, there are three elements to delivering the best service in the shortest amount of time possible. These ideas apply to most any kind of service, from major new services through to the simplest support questions. But let’s stick to the service desk situation to illustrate them:
- Speed and action, doing things and doing it quickly – like the dog running as fast as it safely can, for us this might be taking over the customer’s desktop, changing settings, adding or deleting applications or even ordering new stuff for them
- Doing the right thing and delivering what is needed (which may not be what was asked for nor even what you might choose to work on). Like the dog bringing the right ball back and dropping it in the right place – or us supplying the software access the user needs to work with, not the ones we would choose to use in their position.
- Being prepared and anticipating correctly. That means knowing what you are likely to be asked for, and starting on your solution before you are actually asked – like the dog learning how and where its owner usually throws the ball, and where it never gets thrown. For the service desk this can be really valuable, for example, recognizing a common issue from the start of what might otherwise be a long, confusing explanation from a caller, hence saving time for both you and them.
I could write lots more about each of these three, but as a focus for now, let’s think about how the last one – accurate anticipation – can make the other two look so much better from the customer’s perspective.
We Need Knowledge about our Customers
The dog I saw in the park was getting its anticipation wrong. He were running the wrong way, presuming things too soon and wasting time and energy. If we can deliver accurate anticipation, though, then we can save ourselves from wasted effort, deliver what our customers need quicker and save our organizations from lost time and lost productivity.
Makes sense, right? But how, you ask.
I truly believe that to get better at this kind of anticipation, we need to know the people we deal with and understand their abilities, so that we have the empathy to understand quickly what they say to us, what are their concerns, in order to help us predict what they will say, need, and do.
BRM Might Need a Wider Perspective
Most organizations have good BRM guys who work to understand the customers’ strategy, business needs, preferences, priorities, and concerns. But besides this strategic level knowledge, as we’ve seen above, organizations can get real benefit from understanding right across the range, knowing how those guys in the business think and what matters to them.
So…if we believe in the benefits of accurate anticipation, we need our BRM guys to help us by ensuring they:
- Get views from the whole range of the business community.
- Pass on the identified views and concerns to the front line staff, through the politically correct channels (if yours is the kind of organization where that matters).
- Take feedback in the other direction too by talking with the service desk and learning how often they feel confident on where they need to go.
So, what kind of dog is your business? The kind that works hard on reading the messages and knows where the ball will go, or the one who rushes off in a random direction. You know which kind you should be…don’t you?
Posted by Joe the IT Guy