That VUCA Feeling… (Part 2: How To Minimise The Ripples We Create For Our Clients)
In Part 1, we looked at the inward impact of VUCA and how we can make our own business resilient to external factors. But we also need to think of our customers and key connections in terms of the VUCA factor, particularly those VUCA ripples that we inadvertently create for them.
How many times have you had someone:
- Cancel a meeting at the last minute or even fail to show,
- Repeatedly defer a large contract, expecting you to shift your other client commitments around to suit,
- Take weeks to sign their contract and then immediately start chasing you for progress,
- Drive the hardest possible bargain on your fees, and then require constant chasing to pay their invoices?
It doesn’t feel good does it?
You’ll recognise these examples and you’ll have your own. We all inevitably have to endure elements of this (although do also read my Golden Goose and How to Sack a Client posts!), but they are apposite examples of others creating VUCA splashes in our ponds.
Actions like these create ripples. Cause enough of them and the ripples become a pattern of behaviour, that creates a reputation, and a source of problems, that can be traced back to you. Which would you rather be known as, the source of problems, or solutions?
So by inference, while it’s tempting to see VUCA purely in terms of the difficulties it presents, it also provides the opportunity to demonstrate your appreciation and respect for the time and value of those you come into contact with.
With this in mind, take these four steps to flip the dynamics of Volatility (to Stability), Uncertainty (to Certainty), Complexity (to Simplicity), and Ambiguity (to Clarity) to minimise the VUCA vibe you create for others:
In an ever changing and shifting environment, you need to be seen as totally dependable and consistent, so avoid ‘dipping in and out’ of your activities, especially your marketing and other highly visible/client-facing initiatives.
As it’s easy to let these activities slip during busy periods – the “monthly” newsletter that became bimonthly and the once active social media accounts that now gather dust – look at outsourcing or automating them instead. Email lists, web sign ups, content scheduling and many other tasks can all be managed and maintained this way. Take a look at the Making Time post for tips.
If you handle your marketing outreach activities well, not only will it promote trust in your brand, but it will also help customers form a more enduring relationship with your business.
Your clients are relying on you to get the job done. Promises and assurances, mean little unless they’re backed by action. Delivery is key.
If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of booking a taxi that’s failed to show, or a scheduled delivery that doesn’t arrive, you will understand. Let a customer down, even once, and it can plant a seed doubt that undermines your integrity and the relationship you have established. As a result your hard-fought client advocate may decide to take their business elsewhere or share their experience with others.
For this reason, your customers’ trust should never be taken for granted. Instead, show you value it, prove your reliability, and follow through on any undertaking.
Do this, and your clients will see you as an easy choice rather than a risky one.
Your customers, like you, have multiple demands to juggle and much to think about already, so respect their time and avoid complicating things.
Review the experience you provide from their perspective. More likely than not, it could benefit from a little streamlining.
Examine your processes, weed out those that are long-winded – do you really need that many questions on the client take-on form? Also, consider your offering. Is it overwhelming or difficult to understand – is it totally necessary to have all those product variations and pricing options?
While it’s good to give customers options, too much choice can hamper decision-making and stall your client take-ons.
Instead, opt for a clear and manageable set of choices, and a simple logical (obvious) sequence of next steps to follow. This will make life far easier for your clients, and ensure you stand out as a more confident and favourable option compared to your competitors.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how essential transparency and understanding are. Make sure these elements are a core part of your ‘corporate values’ and that your team get this too – the “computer says no” parody may be relatable, but it’s not an association you want.
In the eyes of your clients, your website, marketing collateral, and customer-facing team members and processes are your business. They’re responsible for helping clients on their journey, and explaining the critical details of what’s going to happen and when. To communicate all this effectively, your team need clarity and understanding themselves. Don’t just tell them what to do, tell them why.
Nail this, and your customers will feel like you are on their side, acting in their best interest and helping them through their journey (as opposed to putting up barriers and bureaucratic processes for your own mysterious purposes).
Final word… the idea that ‘change is the only constant’ is hardly new, but it does sometimes feel like it’s stepped up a gear of late. Regardless, if VUCA is the new normal, it doesn’t mean we have to just accept it.
Rise to the challenge. Prime your business for resilience (VUCA Part 1) and make things as un-VUCA as possible for those you come into contact with.
Master this and you will not only navigate your own VUCA seas with confidence, you will also enhance your reputation, earn respect, and achieve deeper relationships, while others around you flounder in reactive disarray!