VOL. 126 | NO. 3 | Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Light Their Fire
Five Words to Live By
Five words make any employer or client breathe a sigh of relief: “I’ll take care of it.”
I learned this from Dusky Norsworthy, owner of Behind the Scenes production services, when I was her client. If I had a problem, opportunity or suggestion, I would present it to her and she would quickly respond, “I’ll take care of it.” And she did. There were never any ifs, ands or buts. I became a devoted client because she made my life easier.
“I’ll take care of it” deserves to be the cornerstone of any conversation we have with internal or external customers. It says you are there to take a burden off their shoulders because they have more important things to do. It also makes you indispensable.
If you are willing to take the pledge to “take care of it,” there’s a process to follow to ensure you can live up to your promise. It rests on the philosophy of Thomas Watson, who guided IBM from 1914 to his death in 1956. His philosophy was based on one trademarked word – THINK – that was plastered all over the company, including on notebooks given to each employee to record ideas. If you’re going to be a problem-solver, you have to THINK.
The process of fulfilling a request goes like this. If it’s a simple request, do it, inform the client and everyone is happy. You’re the hero.
If the request is complicated or perhaps difficult, do NOT immediately start explaining why it’s impossible. That puts the burden back on your client and you’ll quickly lose your desirability as a resource. Instead, THINK. Ask the person to explain what he wants to accomplish.
Sometimes what a person asks for isn’t what they need. I recall when a client asked us to create a newsletter, but when we probed the situation we discovered what they really needed was supervisor communications training.
When you really understand what the need is, you can investigate all the angles, better evaluate potential solutions and find a way to make it happen.
If there is more than one way to meet the goal, weigh the pros and cons of each approach, outlining costs, timing and potential outcomes, both positive and negative. If there’s an obvious best way to do it, and no downsides, take action and inform the customer that it’s been handled successfully.
Certainly you don’t always have the authority to make a decision about which option to take. Present the options to the client for their consideration. Go in armed with all the information you need to answer questions. If you need to put it a proposal on paper, do a one-page summary.
Be prepared to make a recommendation. Even if the customer takes a different route, he will appreciate your having given him the information needed to make a smart choice. Bottom line: You’re a valuable person to have around.
Susan Drake is President of Spellbinders Internal and External Marketing. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.