Random acts of excellence go a long way. Keeping your client happy doesn’t have to mean going the extra mile. An extra block will do.
Client Case Study: The Content Review Meeting
Forty-five minutes each way for a client check-in meeting, held in-person to briefly discuss next steps in the design and development process for an e-learning course.
Was it Inconvenient? You bet. Was it worth every minute of time spent getting to know the traffic patterns, weather status and geographic landmarks of our greater metropolitan area? Absolutely.
When I received the calendar invitation for this check-in meeting, I noted the client’s gracious addition of a conference line. He didn’t for one second assume that I would drive out to meet on site for such a short meeting. And I didn’t pause for one second before suggesting I do just that. You see, I’ve come to understand that the rate of return on even a small investment of unexpected effort can be enormous.
Embrace Technology AND People
I fully champion the technological advances that allow us to do things like facilitate virtual meetings, large and small. I have worked on high-functioning virtual teams for the better part of the last decade—enough to know that people don’t always have to be in the same room to have a productive meeting. But while the obvious prompt for my in-person meeting offer was the matchless benefit of looking someone in the eye (the “real” eye, not the pixelated one), I’d like to think that on some level, at the core of my offer was a desire to do the right thing – or from a business perspective, make the right choice.
I’ve often marveled at those who can accurately calculate the return on investment for any business effort. But the effort invested in building and maintaining the client/consultant relationship itself provides a particularly rich and complex opportunity to positively affect business and project success.
Values-Based Client Work
One of my core values is flexibility: to be flexible in solutions, meeting client needs, and going the extra mile. By practicing my core values, my clients and colleagues are more likely to trust my intentions and my work, making the entire process of collaboration and co-creation more pleasant for everyone. Sometimes, going the extra mile requires a large investment of time and energy. But in the spirit of “big things coming in small packages,” it seems that the small investments have the biggest impact. Small efforts now—finishing QA on a course after the kids go to bed, adding a couple more bullets to my course storyboard before sending it out, or driving 45 minutes for a 30 minute meeting with a brand new subject matter expert—can save days of work later.
The concept of “random acts of kindness” is based on the fact that cooperative behavior is contagious. Acts are meant to generate a “pay it forward” cascade of cooperation (Kiderra, 2010). By investing in a small inconvenience of time and energy, everyone benefits:
The client benefits, through gains in trust and confidence in the co-creative process, which makes our working relationship more efficient and productive.
My employer benefits, through positive increases in both product/process efficiency and reputation.
I benefit, simply by fostering an inner peace that affects everything from work/life balance to physical wellbeing.
One of the reasons I love my job is that I get an opportunity to do some good in the world—not just return-on-investment good, but doing-the-right-thing good. Practicing a commitment to flexibility, meeting client needs and going the extra mile could feel inconvenient; but when practiced within the goal of shared success, it doesn’t. It feels like a challenge toward excellence. Is it good business? To be sure. But it’s also surprisingly “worth it” for the soul.