Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Agent of Disruption

It sucks, but it happens sometimes: your client loses confidence in you. Often this is the result of an event - a production downtime, or a big bug, or an embarrassing demo, or a completely blown deadline. Sometimes, it's a compendium of little things. Regardless of how you got here, you've got a client who no longer trusts you.

You won't want to lose the customer, so what do you do? How do you win back their confidence?

Slowly. By doing trustworthy things. By not making the same mistake.

And how do you buy the time you need to restore confidence?

Enter the Agent of Disruption.

This can be someone external or internal. Most of the time it's a person, but it can also be a tool if the situation warrants it. In the end, the client has lost confidence not only in the particular situation but in the environment an the team that produced that situation. Therefore, to regain confidence, the environment and/or the team needs to change. The introduction of a disruptive agent shows recognition of that need for a systemic change, and is the first step toward restoring confidence. It is a non-verbal indicator to the client that you really understand their concern and are in alignment with the breadth of change needed. Actual change takes time, and it takes even more time to see he effects of change - which is what rebuilds confidence. A disruptive agent buys you time to make that change.

Of course, you have to let the disruptive agent actually disrupt. Simply introducing the agent doesn't solve the underlying issue; it just buys you time to do so.

If you have a client who has lost confidence, then you need only three steps:
1. Bring in a disruptive agent to show commitment to fixing he problem and restoring confidence
2. Actually fix the problem
3. Be patient. Confidence is business speak for trust, and trust is far harder to earn the second time around

None of us likes to be in this situation, but if it happens, we can earn back our client's confidence. We just need to show we want to do so, and then do so.

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