I have never been particularly interested in cars. I have always taken the view that I want a car that just works with minimum fuss. I’ve never been interested in how it works; and although I have some theoretical knowledge of the workings of an engine, I certainly wouldn’t know enough to tune or maintain my car – and for that reason I take it to a local garage to get it serviced, and I try to get any potential problems fixed as soon as I can.
The dilemma, for people like me (who know nothing about cars) is deciding which mechanic to take the car to. A quick Google search of local garages in my city finds seemingly hundreds of garages—and all of them appearing very similar. With very little knowledge of how the car works, how can I be sure they won’t try to charge me for unnecessary work? How can I be sure that they will do the work safely? Perhaps you’ve faced the same dilemma.
Tractor-feed paper and attention to detail
As it happens, I’ve been going to the same mechanic’s garage for years now. They’ve always been able to help me out, always quote me for any work in advance and always keep their promises.
I recently collected my car from the garage, and something that the mechanic did really grabbed my attention. He printed the sales invoice out on an old dot-matrix printer (using multi-part stationery). But before handing the paperwork over to me, he tore off the perforated edges of the paper so it is neat. He then stapled it together, attaching the receipt and added a leaflet with some useful information and the garage’s opening hours. Once everything was assembled he put it in a folder and handed the paperwork over to me in a nicely presented bundle.
This attention to detail—on something so seemingly ‘unimportant’ as the invoice—is an almost invisible but potentially important part of the overall customer experience. Printed documentation clearly isn’t the core service that the garage offers, but it adds re-assurance. You can imagine a customer thinking:
“If they pay that much attention to the presentation of the paperwork, they must be really thorough when they work on an engine!”.
(This is almost the opposite of the coffee stain theory of branding).
Of course, attention to detail on paperwork is actually no indication of mechanical thoroughness at all, but it may be perceived as a proxy measure—and customer’s perceptions matter. A lot. Particularly when there are tens of competitors within a 1 mile radius.
Organisations often fall down on these ‘little’ details. Imagine having a great meal in a restaurant, only to find the bill is wrong and then it takes them 20 minutes to correct it. You’d feel let down; the smallest of errors has ruined a whole experience.
What this means for business analysis
As well as considering the experience for our organisation’s customers, we can also consider how these sorts of ideas apply internally.
As BAs, we have many customers—stakeholders—who have an interest in our work. It is extremely valuable for us to consider our stakeholders’ experience and how they perceive us and our analysis work. It involves routinely asking “how could we work with them to co-create a set of artefacts that they’ll love to review and own, that they’ll find useful beyond this project”. It involves creating different views, models, conversations and documents for different audiences. It moves us from ‘pushing’ techniques, artefacts and models onto a business, to ‘pulling’, sensing and responding to the contextual needs.
This attention to detail is hard, requires experimentation and of course sometimes we’ll get it wrong. But taking this time to put our customers at the centre of what we do will pay dividends in the long run. We’ll build rapport, effect change that delivers positive outcomes, and they’ll want to work with us again. It doesn’t need to take extra time, and it doesn’t mean producing extra documents—it is about targeting information or artefacts to the right people and having the right types of conversation. It’s about building trust, keeping our promises and considering how the project feels from their perspective.
And whatever we do, it’s important we avoid giving our customers a (metaphorical) screwed up ball of tractor feed paper and receipts and hoping they can make sense of it. Even if the information is there, they are likely to perceive our lack of empathy as a proxy indicator of the quality or our commitment. Competition is rife; and whether we like it or not we all work in sales and our customers’ perception and experience is paramount.
What are your thoughts on the topic of meeting our stakeholders needs & expectations? Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? I’d love to hear them—please add a comment below!
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About the author:
Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.
To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com