27 May

Get Your Spark Back; Do Something Completely Different

A very perceptive lady once told me, at a difficult time in my life, “If things aren’t going the way you want them to, change something.” It sounds obvious, but those words stuck with me – the key point being that I needed to change something, not just mope around hoping something would change.

I recently had, thanks to that wedding and a few bank holidays, an 11 day break from work. It was great to stop and relax for a while, but I hadn’t properly planned for it work-wise. Although I was able to keep my customers happy, I still ended up with a mountain of overdue tasks. Worse still, I felt unable to tackle the mountain and completely lacking in inspiration and drive, despite being in the most rewarding and exciting time ever in my career. Read More

18 May

Speak Your Customer’s Love Language

Or, How to Fail at IT Service Delivery

I recently read a book aimed at improving relationships and began to wonder how the same theory could be applied to business.  I’ll briefly summarise the book, and then examine how the theory (I will call it a theory even though it’s reasonably well proven and makes a lot of sense) could benefit a typical relationship between an IT services company and one of its customers.

After getting over some skepticism, I read “The Five Love Languages“.  It’s aimed at improving long term relationships and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  In essence, the author boils down his years of marriage counseling into the theory that there are five primary “languages” that humans use to demonstrate love for another human:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Giving Gifts
  • Physical Contact

The premise of the book is that most people prefer to “speak” one, perhaps two of these languages, and that in a relationship, if you are speaking a language the other party doesn’t understand, you’re wasting your time.  It’s wonderfully practical, easy to implement, and gives rapid, measurable results, which is exactly the kind of technique that appeals to a busy person looking for an easy way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Business relationships are often jokingly likened to marriage, but behind the jokes are more than a grain of truth – “people buy from people”.  Any business relationship involves a human customer making a decision to purchase something from a person or company they can identify with in some way.  Several studies have shown that adding a “human touch” or otherwise personalising a product or service can boost sales.  For an ongoing relationship, after the initial “spark” has passed, there needs to be a mutual need and appreciation in order for the relationship to continue; in business, the initial spark is the first purchase a customer makes, and then later in the relationship, we see customer services issues, complaints, new products, upgrades, contract renewals and all the other day-to-day running of a business relationship. Read More