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3.23.04 Working on customer satisfaction

Happy Birthday, Mom! In her honor, I restored this old journal page, from back when I was "Maddie" and this site was a big dark secret. I guess it has to be a great moment in mother-daughter relationships. A coming out.

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Things have gotten busy. The completion of my "mentored" version of Kitty Curran has taken a back seat to customer-driven business.

We did a fund-raising video in the Fall, featuring some kids in residential treatment. A foundation commissioned it for one purpose, then the needs and the cast of customers shifted among members of two teams. As their interest and sense of urgency waxed and waned, we got revision notes and approvals from whoever we could snag. But in the end, in spite of all the green lights, we feared that the mark had been missed and the video would never be seen in public. Maria was persistent in asking them if the project would ever be finalized for viewing. So, it was only last week that Board members were convened to weigh in as representatives of the donor community -- the target audience.

Some of the Board ideas mean going back to the drawing board. It is hard to know the right course of action to keep a customer satisfied. It reminds us that you need groundrules: clarifying who is authorized to give approvals along the way and agreeing that those go-aheads close off certain kinds of major revisions. The alternative is a money-back guarantee. But in a months-long project, giving the money back still means customer without a product and producer without income. A a back-to-zero lose-lose.

Sure, some of our anxiety around this has to do with getting paid. Gotta have revenue. But we are most concerned at this point with giving customers something they love to use and that they feel is effective in achieving their purpose. Our pride is at stake. I've been reading about "customer intimacy" for years, so it should be no surprise to me that customers aren't always clear about what they want. Therefore, for anything that involves lots of time and expense, establishing the partnership and working together is critical. It shouldn't surprise us either that the customer's workplace dynamics (a.k.a., office politics) can also affect the clarity of the message. The wrong person might have "greenlight" powers. If a subordinate gets to greenlight, it doesn't guarantee that the boss or the boss's boss won't swoop in at a later date and say he hates it. If only the boss does the greenlighting, it doesn't mean that his subordinates don't think he's an idiot or will use the product he approved.

And so, I spent last week, then the weekend, tweaking. I smoothed out the editing, deleted some clips where a kid's abrasiveness showed through, added some clips that were slightly more endearing or informative. Changed the music. Changed it back. Wrote out the transcript. Developed "talking points" and notes to assist those who would be using the video.

We built up an adrenaline rush to get a new tape to our customer by Monday. It may have been a yawn to them, but, like I said, it's our pride.

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