Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Not the Game; Just the Ticket to Play

We all like to be the "go-to" person. I didn't fully realize this was a fairly universal tech-geek condition until I became a manager and started interviewing people for tech support-type jobs. In response to the common question, "So... what it is it you like (or would like) about this role?" nearly everyone has responded with some version of, "I like being the 'go-to' person."

Surprisingly, it's nearly always worded exactly like that!

Connecting with what I was writing last night about value you provide to your company, it makes sense here to investigate what that really means, to be the "go-to person". Why would people want to come to you for help? What would make them want to come to you more? And how does that tie in with technical knowlege not being your primary asset?

To draw an analogy, let's take a look at your favorite coffee stand, auto parts store, grocery store, etc. Let's say they carry what you want, at least most of the time. Life is good, eh? You go to the store, you get what you want & you go on your way. Now, let's say they carry what you want (most of the time) but they are complete and utter jerks every time you visit. They make it a hassle to get what you want. It takes more time, they take you too literally and screw up your request or they give you crap for interrupting their break, etc. and hey, they're the only game in town so they can do that. And you keep going back. Not that you like it of course, but they've got what you need and you don't feel like going out of your way to get it somewhere else. Yet. Every time you go, though, you wish there was a better alternative and you grumble all the way there and you badmouth the joint to all your friends, right?

Let's turn the tables. Let's say that another coffee stand, auto parts store, grocery store, etc. opens up just down the street. Or maybe it's not even quite as convenient as the other one. And maybe they don't usually carry your PREFERRED coffee, brand of parts, sugar cereal, etc. but they carry something that's a close second. What they might be missing on availability, however, they more than make up for in how easy it is to go there. They let you use your debit card so you don't always have to remember to keep cash on hand, they get you through check-out quickly and easily & don't give you any hassles... and they remembered that last week you asked about a particular item and think to tell you today that they're carrying it now for a trial period. In short, they treat you well, like another human being, and they listen to you.

Now which coffee stand, auto parts store, grocery store, etc. are you going to go to? There comes a point when service will outweigh availability and even quality to some degree. Yes, there is a bare minimum that you've got to provide (whatever it is, from auto parts to technical knowledge) to play the game. That bare minimimum, however, is lower than you think and after that, that's NOT what counts. It's how we feel after interacting with the organization that matters. It's the customer service we get.

What the heck does this have to do with being a "go-to" person"? Each and every day, we market what we have to offer to the people around us. They accept that offer with the terms provided (they "buy" our "product"), or they choose to accept someone else's offer (take their business somewhere else). This is true regardless of the consumer/provider pair you are talking about. Customer/company, customer/tech support agent, co-worker/co-worker, company/employee. Over time, you are building or eroding your standing with the people who are your "customers".

The question is, do you have the minimum "product" availability to play the game? And if so, are you easy enough to work with and do you listen well enough that people want to come back to you. Do they WANT you to be their "go-to person"? If not, then just as soon as they have another choice, they'll make it & you won't be "the one" anymore. Something to think about the next time you figure it's someone else's problem if they don't like working with you.

We are a business of one and and every day we market our skills, talents and services to our customers, co-workers, and the companies we work for.

If you have questions about this, or related topics, feel free to send me an email at techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com.