What Service Are You Really Providing?

I had an experience recently that was very frustrating but made me think harder about the service I provide as a learning professional. Before I get to the ‘how this applies to us’, let me tell you the story.

My Garage Story

A friend bought a gift for me. It was a service that installs shelving in your garage so that you can have some items stored in your garage and park your cars at the same time.  It was a very thoughtful gift.

The men from the garage shelving company showed up right on time and proceeded to measure the garage. I went out to talk with them about what they were going to do in my garage – but they didn’t seem interested at all. They were contracted to put up three short, deep shelves and they were looking for the best place to put them.  It turns out that there was only room for two short, deep shelves at the back end of the garage due to the water heater. But that wasn’t going to stop them! They started measuring where they could put shelves elsewhere.

I tried giving input several times to the tune of “I don’t want shelves that I have to duck under to get to my car.” Apparently my must-have fell on deaf ears. The third shelf went up in a place that required me to bend at a slight angle each time I wanted to get into my car. And worse, they put a bike rack under it which meant that if I hung a kid’s bicycle up I’d have to open the garage door, then go outside in order to get to the driver’s side door.

I was pretty irked when I came out and saw this but it was a gift. What was I supposed to do? I just let them leave.  (You’ll be happy to know that I had the shelf removed within a few days.)

So why did they ignore me and hang that shelf there?  I thought about it quite hard. Was I not clear? Should I have shouted at them? Were they just ignoring me because I’m a woman? I decided it wasn’t any of those things. I realized after a few days of pondering that these men think they are in the business of hanging shelves.

The business they are really in is making garages useful and less crowded. If they had thought about how can they make the garage more useful, they would never have hung a shelf in a way that required ducking and maneuvering to get to a car.

Other Examples of Workers Not Understanding What Business They Are In:

  • The cable installer thinks he’s in the business of putting in wires. He’s actually in the business of enabling work, entertainment, and/or communications.
  • The hairdresser thinks she’s in the business of cutting hair. She’s actually in the business of helping a woman feel great about how she looks.
  • The waiter that thinks his job is to take your order and bring you food. He’s actually in the business of giving you an enjoyable dining experience.

How Does This Apply to L & D?

We have great tools. We have simulation tools, flash tools, mobile tools.  We have ADDIE and Rapid Prototyping. We have webinar tools and analysis tools. I suggest that some of us (not all – just some!) forget that we aren’t in the business of using these tools. We are in the business of helping a company or organization achieve some goal.

I suggest we all stop to ask ourselves – what is it my client (internal or external) really wants?

  • Instead of an instructional design project – they want learning to compliment an initiative
  • Instead of a classroom delivery of a leadership course – they want an experience that will raise the bar for the participants in their work and personal life
  • Instead of a cool eLearning Course with all the bells and whistles – they want more productive workers
  • Rather than a Change Management plan – they want a smooth transition with non-stressed employees

Keeping this in mind at the start of each project will result in ecstatic clients!

Leigh Anne Lankford is an instructional designer with more than 20 years’ experience in the field of HRD. She is a Relationship Manager for TrainingPros in Atlanta, working closely with training and development departments of large organizations to identify, attract, and on-board contract employees for very specific and specialized training and development needs. You can reach Leigh Anne at leighanne.lankford@training-pros.com. 

3 Responses to “What Service Are You Really Providing?”
  1. salesx says:

    Excellent and concise about the real value one provides from a service or product. James O. Rodgers CMC recently explained similar thoughts at the October Independent SIG meeting of Atlanta ASTD.He worked with Carrier and told them that they do not sell air conditioning units, they sell comfort.

  2. RonF says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I think that sometimes we forget the services we actually provide.

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