Why Do Customers Demand Stupide Reports?

A comical incident occurred at one of the conferences. One of a listeners came to me and asked:

– Alex, there is such a question: how can we increase the level of trust in relations with the customer?

– What is wrong with the level of trust now?

– Well, we have a team, we have a manager. And we want the customer to trust the team and communicate only with the manager. And he appeals directly to the engineers…

– Why is that bad? A person immediately gets answers to his questions, quick communications and all that stuff.

– You see … We sell him junior engineers like they are senior engineers … And we wouldn’t want him to discover this fact.

Let me remind you the original formulation of the question: “How can we increase the level of trust in relations with the customer?”

Let’s talk about customers today. More precisely, about a simple tool that:

• Will help you understand where your relationship with the customer is

• Shows why report forms are sometimes so stupid

• May help to understand the reasons for the “inappropriate” behavior of the customer

Trust and transparency matrix

Yes, it is a 2 by 2 matrix again – for the first time we heard it from our colleague Serge Berezhnoy, who has been managing projects in outsourcing projects for 15+ years. The matrix shows what is happening with the relationship between the customer and the contractor.

𝐀. 𝐋𝐨𝐰 𝐓𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭 & 𝐋𝐨𝐰 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲. Suppose a new project starts, which you sincerely wish to complete successfully, thereby causing irreparable benefit to the customer. But the customer doesn’t know you yet, and you have just started to work – only a couple of days have passed. Where is your relationship with the customer? Most likely in square A.

Yes, the customer has already chosen you, that is showed some minimal trust. Therefore, your relationship is not on the lower border of square A. But they are still in that square, if the customer already had experience working with contractors. Those who have ever renovated their own apartment are probably nodding their heads at this moment. 🙂

With all this, somehow you want to rise into a zone of high trust, right? After all, there:

• Your ideas are accepted FAST, without twenty-five justifications

• The customer comes with new projects again and again

• The customer is so impressed with the work of your team that he tells only GOOD about you, which in turn is converted into:

• MONEY and career or professional GROWTH for your entire team

A natural question arises:

𝐈𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐣𝐮𝐦𝐩 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐃? Of course, there is! After all, that’s why people take customers to the bathhouse. Plus, that’s why there are reviews and other references.

But here you need to understand that being in square D is very unstable. Any problem on the project automatically drops the relationship into square A. And then the bathhouse stops working. And the reviews even start to work against you: “Eh, they told me that the guys are smart, but in fact …”

Therefore, the general recommendation is to increase transparency and gradually move into a square:

𝐁. 𝐋𝐨𝐰 𝐓𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭 & 𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲. Being in square B, provided that there is not only the transparency, but also the RESULT, raises trust. A person sees that his money, time, reputation, and career are used by you for business. And this automatically increases the level of trust and moves your relationship into a square:

𝐂. 𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭 & 𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲. Over time, you can move from square C to D if the customer sees that bringing transparency requires significant resources.

A story from life. My colleague and second lover of management tools, Slava Pankratov, told how they once worked for an American customer of Korean origin Jin:

At some point, the team grew to 25 people, and writing a weekly report to call Jin began to take a whole day.

I somehow came running to call, being puffed. Jin says:

– Hi, why are you running?

– Well, I’ve been collecting data all day today.

Jin instantly becomes serious.

– That is, do I understand correctly that my test manager spends four days a month on this report?

– Well, yes

At this moment, he apparently multiplies my rate by 8 hours and realizes that the weekly report costs him a lot:

– Slav, let’s try to live without this piece of paper …

𝐃. 𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐓𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭 & 𝐋𝐨𝐰 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲. Being in this square is rather unstable. There is an instant fall into square A in the case of:

• Any more or less serious problem on the project

• Change of person on the side of the customer

Both this and that leads to the fact that transparency begins to be made already at the initiative of the customer. The way he sees fit and right.

𝑨 𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆. In a one IT company, the director forces programmers to write an explanatory note by hand when they are late. Even for 3 minutes. The director even has an explanation: “They will get bored of writing and will stop being late!”

As Milton Ericsson told us, there is always a positive intention in people’s actions (sometimes positive only for them, yes), and people act in the best way they can.

The CEO has a positive intention: to improve the performance of the company, which he believes depends on the level of discipline. How to raise discipline? Just like this. The director is 25 years old, and he considers this method the best.

The same is with the customer. You don’t like the form of the reports? And he obviously considers it to be the best way to bring transparency in this situation. This is his experience. Pardon. Have you reached the square A without proposing your own way of bringing transparency? Now bring the transparency as are requested.

The fall of relations from square D to square A will inevitably affect the team. People just have lost the habit of writing reports, and here is a new form. Why and for what? People don’t really understand.

𝑨 𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆. At one of the trainings – we talk about this matrix. The manager slaps himself on the forehead: “Damn, we went through this circle 3 times! ..”

It’s pretty hard to explain these things to the team. Therefore, it is better not to sit in one’s hands, but to act proactively. Let’s get started right now.

𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐨 𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐨𝐨𝐥? Let’s do a little exercise:

1. Draw a medium-sized 2 by 2 matrix on a piece of paper – the Trust and Transparency matrix

2. Think a little and put a point in the square where you think the relationship with your customer is. This could be an external customer, an internal customer, a neighboring department, your boss, etc.

It is impossible to put a point in the very center, we don’t cheat. 🙂 Be honest with yourself.

3. Ask yourself: why do you think so? Why do you think your relationship is there? Do you think that transparency is enough, but there is no trust? Why then there is no trust? By what signs do you understand that the customer is sufficiently aware of your work?

Having reports doesn’t mean they’re being read, right? The best way to understand where your relationship is – is to ask. The good thing about the tool is that it can be used when meeting or calling a customer:

• Do I understand correctly that our relationship is right here?

• What can we do from our side to increase transparency?

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐢𝐧 𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐣𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐬? Quite often, people ask what to do when problems arise when the level of trust begins to decline.

𝑨 𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆. About three years ago, I realized my childhood dream to take my family on vacation to America. We came up in Las Vegas, and of course, it was impossible not to go to the David Copperfield show. This is a childhood idol!

We bought the cheapest tickets for the last row. At the entrance we were greeted by an old grandmother, a ticket taker. “Come on”, she said, “I’ll lead you to your seats”.

We came to our last row – there was a table, chairs and a side through which the children couldn’t see anything. Grandma saw this and said: “you probably need boosters for the children”. “Yes”, I said, “we would like to have them”. “Okay”, said grandma and left.

There were 10 minutes until the show starts, there were no boosters. I saw the grandma was leading the other spectators. I thought the crone forgot about us. At this moment – I felt a pat on the shoulder. That was the grandmother: “Don’t worry, I remember about your boosters.”

There were two minutes before the show, no boosters appeared. I thought: well, she forgot. At that moment she came up to me: “Unfortunately, the boosters were taken to the dry cleaning and we don’t have time to bring them in before the show. But I have a proposal for you. I would like to suggest you to move to the 4th row. There is no such side as here, and there are free places. If you don’t mind, let me show you. “

Of course, we didn’t mind. 4th row! Copperfield could actually be touched during the performance.

Leaving, the grandmother asked: “Tell me, please, do you still need boosters?” I said “yes, we do”. “No problem,” she said, “I’ll send for them to a nearby warehouse. You’ll have them in 10 minutes”. In 10 minutes they were there.

I fell in love with this grandmother with all my heart. Then for a long time I was interested in the question: why did she do all this? But this is already talking about motivation. But what did she do technically?

At that moment, when I was dissatisfied with the grandmother, she informed me about the status of the work. General recommendation in case of problems: to increase transparency and make reports more frequent – on your OWN initiative.

𝑨 𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆. In one company we conducted a series of trainings. On the first training the guys complained about their customers:

– You see, they are strange. During the quarter they are silent, they don’t make any comments, and at the end of the quarter they give us low marks.

The next time we visited them a month later. One of the managers told a real story:

– We just had to hand over the project, but the time was running out. In short, we began to write to the customer every day, telling what we were doing, what the problems were and how we were to solve them. Before that, we had reports once a week or by request of the customer. And now, we ourselves began to write every day. As a result, yesterday we received estimates for the quarter. Our estimate turned out to be higher than in those quarters when we didn’t delay.

Trust is falling – increase transparency to avoid falling below the red line.

Friends, let’s work transparently. Then there will be no problems with trust.

Good luck!

Alex Orlov

Tetics

P.P.S. In the next article, I would like to talk about another 2 by 2 matrix – perhaps the most important of all. About motivation, energy, state and how to clarify this for yourself and for your employees. And also we’ll talk about what chess has to do with it. 🙂

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