for Client Interaction Class 1997
........Today was the first Client interaction class, with Rita Black the teacher. It looks like the message of this class is that you have to focus on keeping your customers happy and loyal, and as usual Rita spent half the class complaining about the way Swinburne is run. We played a game where we were given a list of eleven people and we had to decide which seven should survive in the emergency situation. We had to work in groups -- my group consisted of Jason, Damon and John, and they are a bunch of talkative guys so I didn't have to say much. We made decisions about who to keep and who to kill, in the hypothetical situation, and I didn't really care what they decided 'cause it was only pretend.
........Later we watched a video called "Who Killed the Sale?", about some English people who managed a business deal very badly. On one side you had the company Millers who really needed the sale badly in order to survive, and on the other side you had United Metals who seemed willing at first to do business with Millers. George Cooper was the Millers' salesman, and everyone had faith that he would handle the sale well. But due to the bad client interaction practices that the company used, the sale got killed. Someone delivered the wrong sort of pallets, the receptionist showed a lack of skill in handling a complaint, she was discourteous on the phone, she passed a message on incorrectly, there was a miscommunication between George and the machine shop supervisor, George was rude to the United Metals receptionist when she wouldn't give him an early appointment, and to top it all off, the Millers van driver was obstructing the United Metals people. And there were a million other mistakes, too many to list... all to do with client interaction. They all could have been avoided if the personnel had been better trained in that area. So in answer to the question "Who Killed the Sale", they all did.
........On this day we started in on the self-assessments. Between classes we were required to do these tests which supposedly tell you what sort of person you are. Firstly there was the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator which puts you into one of sixteen categories, mine being ISFJ which means I'm Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging. I did this test way back in term one, too. I hear they use it for employment placement purposes, which is a bit sus -- anyway Rita told us once again what our type labels mean and told us to work out what areas we ought to develop in. It all seems so pointless. Maybe the ISFJ label fits me a little, just partly -- but it doesn't tell me anything useful. I can't do anything with that information.
........Then there was the "Type A/Type B" personality test which tells you if you're stressed out or not. This one put me in the stressed out "A" category, near the inner border, and I've got no argument with that. I suppose this one is a bit more useful, because it points out some negative aspects of my personality (stress-related) which I ought to get rid of, and lists some positive (relaxed) characteristics which I ought to pick up. I'd like to have a life of reduced stress, which is why I'm not planning to get a job.
........We did a test headed "Exercise Leadership" which asked us questions about being the leader of a hypothetical work group, and it gave us two scores, one measuring Concern For Production, the other measuring Concern For People. My scores were 6 and 8 respectively. The maximums are nine and nine. The scoring system for that was very complicated and I can't be bothered analysing it to find out what's wrong with it, but I know it's a load of crap because I know that I'm quite the opposite of a leader, and have been all my life, and I have little or no concern for people OR production. I wouldn't be surprised if the scoring system was totally wrong -- other people's scores seemed a bit out of wack too.
........Then decending into the pits of uselessness, we did the Primary Conflict-Handling Intention test which supposedly categorized us as Submissive, Assertive, or Aggressive. I've taken a few of these tests before and they never fail to put me way down the submissive end -- this one put me in the upper assertive area. I suspect Rita told us the wrong scoring system -- she was only relying on her memory. The way she taught it to us, you'd think all the questions were measuring aggressiveness. But they weren't, they were measuring assertiveness. In other words, the higher your score, the further away you should be from the outer extremes. How could she teach us the wrong thing like that -- it makes me mad. No one even noticed. But I didn't say anything 'cause none of these personality tests are of much importance to me. I don't need a test to tell me what sort of person I am -- I've already analysed myself so thoroughly over the years, and the tests are only telling me superficial stuff that I already know.
........Oh also we watched a video called If Looks Could Kill or something, it was about how our behaviour affects other people's behaviour. It was a comedy -- a guy went mad and committed suicide as a result of bad client interaction. It was pretty entertaining, though I can't say I learnt anything new.
........Instead of attending Client Interaction class, I went to the city where a bunch of students were holding a protest rally against upfront fees at RMIT, something I regard as much more interesting and worthwhile than Client Interaction class, despite the fact that I'm not an RMIT student.
........I did another leadership test, this one by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard. It's designed to determine your leadership style. It measures you on two axes; Task Behaviour and Relationship Behaviour. The test put me in Quadrant 4, which means Low Relationship and Low Task. That quadrant was, for me, way in front of the others -- it was unambiguous. However, the test goes on to say that any of the four basic styles may be effective or ineffective depending on the situation. So there is a second score which determines style adaptability. On this I scored 2, on a scale of -24 to +24. So I'm in the effective category, but only just.
........This test seems to give much more accurate results than the "Exercise Leadership" test, and I could understand how the results were obtained. This made me imagine how I would behave if I were suddenly forced into the role of a leader (a very unlikely scenario). I would probably just let the group sort things out for themselves, trying not to intervene, not taking any definite action. I know that's not the right behaviour for a leader in most situations, but I wouldn't care because for me there's nothing worse than being a leader and my first priority would be to get out of that leadership position and let someone else take over. What sort of group task are we talking about here, anyway? Something to do with office work? It just doesn't seem worth doing. And what happens if the task fails? Do I get the sack? Well I don't care -- it's probably a crummy job anyway and I've got my pension to fall back on. So while I'm aware of the deficiencies in my leadership style, I have no incentive to change myself.
........We watched a video about satisfying clients today; I suspect I missed the first half of it last week. There was this guy talking to us about clients and how we should be aiming not to SATISFY them, but to DELIGHT them. That way they'll feel good about our business. At the hotel, for instance -- provide free orange juice and leave polite little notes on the bed. When someone pays a bill on time, send a thankyou note. There was also this dentist guy who had a policy of referring to his patients as "clients", so as to make them feel important. That gave me a chuckle 'cause it reminded me of when I was in psychiatric hospital and the mental patients were often refered to as "clients", but it was not so much a policy as a running joke, because mental patients usually have very little say in whether they remain a client or not, so the staff don't need to treat them with much respect at all... but anyway, back to the video. The main guy seemed to be giving some good advice for businesses and such, although I found it hard to get past how ugly he was. I think there were some handouts that we had to fill in for this video, but it's probably nothing important. I put myself in the shoes of a client on the receiving end of these client-delighting strategies that he was describing, and I thought to myself "They're just using clever tactics to get more money out of me -- they're only pretending to be my friend so as to get me to pay more." But I guess the guy had some good ideas. He looked pretty rich.
........Rita was sick on the sixth of November. That's the end of my journal, then. Am I supposed to write some sort of conclusion? The events in this journal taught me more about client interaction. I now know what sort of treatment one has to give to clients in order to run a successful business. I doubt if I can apply this knowledge to real life, as I don't have any clients and I never will, but it's always good to learn stuff.
-- Stephen Clark