If I had to summarize the emotional state of customers when they engage us for help with web-to-print and/or Print MIS solutions, it would have to be the emotion of frustration. This is a complex emotional state that results from a diverse set of factors and impacts companies and individuals differently; very similar to how a virus might impact humans different based on the condition of their immune system.
Companies and individuals who have a strong immune system don’t fall victim to frustration, they muster the appropriate defense, make adjustments, find solutions, and see the frustration as part of the process of getting to their desired results. Companies and individuals who are not on solid ground, fall victim to the frustration and let it define their project, their relationship with print software vendors, and sometimes with us as consultants.
The best life and business advice I’ve ever heard is “when you’re in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging”. When projects are defined by frustration, the best thing to do is to stop contributing to the fire. When things are running hot between a vendor and a printer, I like to think of adding water to the mix rather than lighter fluid. Nothing much gets accomplished in a heated frustration state, I get why you might be there right now. There is so much evidence that has attributed to your frustrated state; it just makes it very difficult to reach your business goals if you insist on staying frustrated.
We are creatures of habit, so when a vendor does something that fails to meet your expectations; from that point forward we tend to look for evidence to support that outcome. Did you hear that? We are only looking and focusing on things that we don’t want. Have you ever heard the mantra, “you are what you eat?” I believe in the mantra “you are what you think.” So when you’re thinking only of what’s going wrong and how inept everyone is and how disappointed you are – you are adding lighter fluid to the fire. Stand back because you will continue to get burned.
How do you get out of this rut? All business has its ups and downs, successes and frustrations. The key is to not let your team wallow in the frustration. We have a customer who was very frustrated with their print software vendor. Again and again, in their mind the print software vendor promised one thing and delivered another. Every time we engaged with this printer we heard new stories of disappointment, missed commitments, and legitimate mess ups. We listened, but we did not contribute to the energy but instead asked questions about the solutions. Over a period of time we tried to influence the printer to proactively look for where the print software vendor was delivering. We encouraged the printer to be openly and overly grateful when commitments were met. Everyone loves to be thanked; gratitude is an endangered species in way too many work environments.
Guess what happens when you change your perspective and start looking for the behavior and partnership you want? You change your filter on the project, the vendor, the situation and you start seeing evidence of what you want to happen. This is the best way to get you out of the rut but it isn’t easy for some people. Once you start operating in this manner, you’ll see people both on your team and at the vendor who might be attached to staying in that negative, blaming, seeing the glass half full state. Unfortunately, there are lots of people who choose to simply live there – in that negative state where they focus 100% on the problems and then wonder why they are surrounded by problems. I have tried over and over in my professional career to drag people out of this misery with very little success. People have to want to move, you can’t manage them out of this default state of living. In most cases, cutting your losses is the more humane thing to do for both you and the employee. Know that they will have many choices of organizations that live permanently in the dysfunction of negative thinking. Know that no matter how it seems to disrupt your current workflow, moving a bad apple out is a powerful sign to the rest of the apples on your team.
The leadership at this printer is now in full solution finding mode. They are gracious, they say thanks, and they have developed real relationships with key players at the print software vendor. They are building a partnership that gets them special treatment and they aren’t paying more for the privilege in money, they are paying in gratitude. I know it sounds a little mushy but I see it working all the time. The customers who are the most frustrated, spending the most time yelling and screaming have to yell and scream and escalate to get any attention. Those customers, who have found a way to look for the behavior they want from their partners, find more and more evidence of that behavior and get better service by expressing sincere gratitude to the people who make the partnership real.
I know what you’re thinking; she doesn’t understand our particular situation. I have worked at more than ten different technology companies in the print space as well as a couple printers. I’ve been on both sides of the equation; the frustrated printer, the struggling print software vendor, and the independent consultant. There are always factual reasons to be frustrated and some of those may lead to you moving to a new vendor. My advice is that don’t repeat the same mistakes with the next vendor. Learn your part in the partnership because every failed relationship involves two parties, there is always contribution from both sides. Before you move on, do a post-mortem, not to regurgitate everything the vendor did wrong but focus 100% on what you contributed to the problem so you get your monies worth – failing is the greatest teacher, you paid the tuition, make sure you take the lessons forward.