Sign Up For What?

Business Traveller Magazine announced that a famed hotel in Hong Kong was hosting a spectacular event. A group called “Premium Families of Wine” was doing a set of dinners, pairing top Estate wines from some of the world’s top wine families, with the cuisine of a Michelin-starred Chef.

I had our hotel call for details. After 48 hours of being assured details were “forthcoming”, they sent over a Credit Card authorization form and a price — but no specific event details!

I told them they were hanging on to sanity by a thread to have gone so far as to establish a price, and then having the gall to ask for a non-refundable payment, while providing no details of the menu, the wines, or their vintages. I have therefore no basis to assess the value being offered!

They responded with more rhetoric about a “superb chef” and “top vintages”.  I’m sure that’s the intent, but I’d like to see what’s actually on offer.

This led me to consider how often we make it difficult for clients to know what we’re offering. Agreements are imprecise, metrics fuzzy, and we attempt to overload people with verbal excess rather than clarity and simplicity. Why?

Might it not be an idea to be as transparent as possible? If not, why not?

It’s true that some requests are inappropriate. For example, asking a surgeon for a blow-by-blow game-plan of an upcoming surgery is beyond obtuse. We are counting on their skill and ability to adapt procedures to what they find as they proceed. Similarly as consultants, we rightfully chafe when people ask us for a blow-by-blow of a key engagement. We can and should agree and share outcomes and be answerable for them. But a pre-fabricated game-plan suggests that we are applying stodgy templates from the past, not current imagination.

Working with a client in Mumbai, I kept hearing the refrain, “We’re in a crisis, and we fear there’s too much random and scattered activity.” Smart people! Again, vague, ill-defined strategies and actions, absent any prioritization, can give the illusion of purposeful action. But a surfeit of this actually saps energy from strategically differentiated actions. And the largest lament from the team there was: tell us the larger vision, when we shift from established plans, tell us not only what we have to change but why, validated against the larger vision — the aligned upon “end in mind”.

Absence of clarity reveals an absence of the following: strategy, planning, prioritization or decisive action. Sometimes it reveals a deficit of all of these.

One of my Credit Cards was re-issued. I called to ask how many reward points I had. They said “zero”. I told them my last redemption was two years ago, and I had demonstrably spent a significant amount on this Card.  Hence logically, there cannot be zero points — unless some expired. They said there had been no expiry, but wondered if there was some technical error. I said, “Nothing to wonder about. Look at the expenditure. And as these points are generated by expenditure, tell me where they are. So there is definitely a technical error.” Dead silence, a complaint reference number, and a request to call back in 72 hours. Yet it took three repetitions to drive home the point, that on the face of it, there was clearly an issue. This customer service agent hadn’t bothered to consider with any clarity how these points were issued, and therefore the evident fact that there was a systems error.  So he aroused irritation, suspicion and distrust as to his organization’s collective competence. Hardly an impact to be desired.

So, in dealing with clients, customers, friends and colleagues, when enrolling them for something, make sure they know in terms of key parameters and anticipated value, what they’re signing up for. Try to be clear as to what counts, what matters, and how it will be evaluated. And then align those intuitions and judgments, so you’re not debating the basics over and over.

I continue to hope for the listing of wines and the menu from this venue in Hong Kong. As they sell this in tables of eight, there is a major sale waiting to happen. However, each day that passes, my interest wanes somewhat, the likelihood of my making alternative plans goes up. It’s an interesting insight that when we confuse our clients, leave them uncertain, or unclear, they too, despite evident interest, may take their intentions and interests elsewhere.

Reach out today and check understanding of salient outcomes and expectations with key stakeholders and partners. Insist on being impeccably clear in your dealings, agreements and transactions, as well as in your offerings and proposals. The act of arriving at that clarity is part of the very breakthrough that makes you valuable. So make that effort and ensure you come through here. You’ll find very little competition if you do. Even more importantly, you’ll find scores of grateful and avid clients and fans in your portfolio. You’ll find them, and you’ll be far more likely to keep them.