the way out of no

by smb on November 25, 2008

Your company has an amazing thing.  It’s shiny.  It’s clever. And, it’s going to be huge. Absolutely huge.

Wait a second.  Huge?  How are you going to handle all that demand?  When the flood of customers, consumers, constituents or clients bang on your door – what are you going to do?

You’re a start up, a small project, a not for profit, and you don’t have endless resources, people or product.  A huge demand is both your persistent dream, and biggest nightmare.

What do companies, contractors or agencies often do when they face scarcity?

Typically?  Stall, delay and deny.

When faced with the prospect of demand that outstrips your resources, it can be tempting to bunker down — as if weathering a storm.  And in that sense, the metaphor is apt in a storm cellar, provisions have to be rationed and savored.  A bunker is impregnable to external force.  An ideal shelter is secure and impermeable.

The bunkered workplace creates layers of process:  automated phone lines, client assessments, endless applications and screening.  Employees who are waiting for a storm to pass are so concerned with how to say no to the flood that they often forget how to say yes. Staff who are rationing their services don’t worry about customer experience because they are worried about being over worked and running out.

What people forget is that the storm cellar is a short term strategy.  Customers know when they are being delayed.  Clients know stalling when they hear it.  Your most potentially passionate customers can tell when they are being dismissed.

Treating your customers as if they are a meteorological disturbance that will just blow over is a mistake.  Surviving in this business climate is going to take a more audacious approach.

You are going to have to be honest.  You are going to have to be accessible.  And you are going to have to find a way to say yes.

Companies who tell the truth earn good will.  Own up to complaints, even when you don’t have the answers.  Finding a way to offer something won’t make up for a failure – but it can ease the anger.

Most importantly, finding a way to say yes changes your approach, your method  and the attitude of those who work around you.

Yes is will not multiply loaves and fishes, but yes creates the possibility of building a relationship with your customers that can survive scarcity.

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