12.14.12 | Transblog
There are many skills and talents that are required to become a good designer, especially paying detailed attention. For many years, my habitual process of assuring quality has kept my clients happy with projects I was assigned to. However, an issue came about when I began my study at Parsons, as I started cutting back on work to concentrate on my studies full time. A manager of one of my former clients informed my supervisor that they weren’t happy with the work being received. They have specifically asked for my involvement in their project again. Knowing that people currently assigned to the project are as capable if not more than I am, I began wondering about the causality of this problem.
Where do I even begin? Can my company keep this client if I get involved on this project again? I looked through the old notes from work and found a few I jotted down when I was involved in what I will now refer to as the troubled project. These documents were drafts of proposed internal quality assurance processes, and quick checklists that I was going to pass to junior designers that joined my team back then. But on second thought, quality assurance processes and training alone could not have prevented this problem. The biggest problem was that no one in the company knew that the client was frustrated with the service they were paying for until the management got involved. I had to step back to look at the whole picture of the situation, and try to look at this issue from a different angle. I was enlightened with the possibility that maybe the underlying issue was poor communication. Giving it some more thought, and discussing this issue with my peers I was confident that this was, in fact, a result of poor communication with the client. We have been putting bandages to temporarily fix the symptoms, but failed to look at the underlying cause of those symptoms. I decided to expand my research to come up with a solution that will put an end to this systematic communication problem.
In the book Art of Managing Social Networks, Kinam Kim puts emphasis on the importance of attentive listening. He also points out that what moves human hearts are not big things but a series of small things that you can only find out when strong communication channels are established between two parties. We have to recognize that on the other side of the e-mail, there’s a person sitting there. In a service business, it is surprising to see how much can be accomplished through a “Give & Give” mentality instead of a traditional “Give & Take” paradigm. To retain and continue a relationship with clients, it is vital to recognize that we need a system in place to ensure all our previous efforts are not lost, no matter who fills the position in the future. Documenting all client communication is a must, and we need to look into Customer Relationship Management practices to transform communication documents into tangible organizational assets.
By drawing out a system diagram on our customer communication feedback scenario, we will be able to find out what we are doing well, and what we are doing wrong, and how we can improve to better serve our clients and their goals. Using this information we can praise our designers for a job well done and managers can get involved early on with potential problems while issues are still small and manageable. To transform our design communication better with the client, we can create a system to collect quick feedback on the areas we want to measure performances in, such as customer service, work quality, timelines, etc. Also, we can document the conversations not only through email but separate notes that can be used by future staff to better serve the client.
Throughout the semester, conducting research, thinking in different ways than before, having difficult discussions, and doing nerve-wrecking presentations at times made me feel overwhelmed. I can see a strand of light now. Without realizing, my paradigms have shifted. I started to see things differently, look at things in patterns, try to think in systems and not overlook even small problems.