Looking from the Outside In

Greetings this morning from Missouri.  I am in the middle of a trip that is part work and part vacation.  Today I am in the middle of the state in the county I grew up in, visiting family and friends.  We are staying with friends we have known for years.  Now no one in the house drinks coffee. 

They do know how much I enjoy consuming a pot or two in the morning. So, before every visit we make, they always talk to my wife about what types of blends of coffees I enjoy and stock some so it is available when I am here.  They go out of their way to understand how I view the world in a caffeine starved state and make provisions to ensure that does not occur.  They also know that I view coffee as very warm and inviting.  Some would call this thinking about others first or Southern hospitality. 

One way you can think of this is being able to see yourself the way that others see you.  Once you can view yourself in that manner, you are faced with a decision of how to act.  This applies to organizations and companies as well.  The ability to be able to view the group as folks would on the outside is a valuable skill, especially for those companies that have members, customers, or shareholders. 

One of our clients is a hospitality management company.  They constantly strive to understand how others view them.  They have implemented a lot of ways to keep their guest in the forefront of their focus.  One hotel I stayed in earlier this month sent a text message about a half hour after I unpacked asking about the condition of the room and if it was up to the standard I required.  They then sent another text for the premium Wi-fi code.  Throughout my week stay there, they sent several different texts to ask if there was anything else that I needed, offered me a free entrée at their restaurant, and invited me to their evening social.  In short, they went out of their way to make me feel invited.

A stark contrast to this is a technology company I have worked with as a customer.  This company is very internally focused.  When you talk to them, it is as if you are an outside and not part of the inside secretive club that they have.  Problems that are brought up are often sent to the “development team” on the other side of the world.  Most problems are never addressed head on; vague responses are given that make complete sense to the company but are nonsense to the customer.  That is if they even choose to respond to an issue that is brought up.

One solution they offer is to increase the communication between our group and theirs. Yet this fails to solve anything as they will still communicate in internal company code and we sit on the outside.  This company is a classic example of an organization that has never developed the skill of understanding how the customer looks at them.  As such, they will be stymied in their growth potential as clients will soon figure out the tech guys either do not have the ability or do not care to understand how they appear from their customer’s prospective and make changes to their actions. 

Now this does not always apply in a business lending case.  Of course, the borrower wants as much money as possible at the lowest rate and with the most generous repayment terms.  But since that may incur an unacceptable amount of risk to the lender, making accommodations to those borrower requests may not be the best decisions.  The goal of the lender is to have their principal repaid, with a reasonable rate of return for the risk, and with the lowest amount of hassle possible.  Sometimes, the most merciful answer to the borrower is to say “no”.

But even in that response, it is important to understand how you are perceived from the outside.  That is if you want to know how others view you and make decisions on how to respond accordingly.