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The Challenge Of Time

May 23, 2013

It Only Takes Seconds To Lose A Customer” is the title of a recent blog on Successful Workplace.

Citing the work of Vivek Ranadive, the article emphasizes the importance of empowering the customer interface to answer questions rapidly and accurately – or risk losing a sale. It is not just a matter of customer impatience; it is also about credibility and perceptions of competence.

I recall research that I encountered some years ago to support this point. It related to Chief Financial Officers and examined factors that made them trust information. When asking for data, they were profoundly influenced by the time it took to provide an answer. I forget the precise statistic, but the tolerance level for delay was low – and the longer it took, the less faith they had in the eventual answer.

This supports Ranadive’s point that “A little bit of the right information just a little bit beforehand … is more valuable than all of the information in the world six months later”. Throughout my career, I have witnessed this point – and the fact that delays not only reduce the value of information, but also typically result in increased demands and expectations.

The application of this ‘need for speed’ is evidently important for the world of contracts and commercial management. Indeed, the principle complaint about Procurement, Legal and Commercial functions is that they slow things down. They are knowledge and information roadblocks.

But in an increasingly complex world, surrounded by a multitude of risks, can we really ’empower’ the sales interface? We all know their propensity to exaggerate, to give false or incomplete information … And with the growth of interactive technologies, the number of people who interface with the customer has grown, so the challenge of empowerment extends far beyond the sales representative.

Commercial and Legal groups are becoming steadily busier as the demands for support grow. Their current model of operation is not sustainable. They must start to work on new and better structured approaches to supporting and enabling the business. This means steps such as codifying information, segmenting the areas of information need, providing remote access via technology, developing apps for mobile devices. To get started, they must begin to analyze the nature of the topics and issues on which information is needed; this means ending the idea that every situation is unique and seeking patterns for sales enquiries and customer issues.

‘The 2 second advantage” is a powerful concept – and it is something we really must take to heart. Today would be a good day to start.

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