Why flexibility is crucial

The customer in the modern economy is very demanding. It’s no longer enough for a service to be delivered efficiently and professionally. The delivery must be on OUR time, in OUR budget and tailored specifically to OUR unique needs and requirements. This kind of demand for sophistication in the services we use often clashes with logistical and operational standards of those providing the service.

In any kind of service provision, be it product delivery or high-end consultancy and management, the needs of the client are expected, at least in some capacity, to be malleable to the business process. Many companies in the service industry view their operational process as almost sacrosanct. They prefer the journey from a purchase order to a completed piece of business to be as stable, predictable and by-the-numbers as possible. When a client asks for certain special provisions to be made to suit their particular needs, most service providers will make many of the necessary changes, but in numerous cases these kinds of compromises risk being viewed as a challenge or inconvenience to be overcome, rather than an opportunity to make the service more malleable to the client’s needs. The service can compromise with the customer, but it’s hardly à la carte.

Flexibility, the capacity of companies to continuously tailor and reconstruct their method of service delivery to suit the customer’s more complex and intangible requirements, is becoming increasingly vital as market competition becomes more intense. A more malleable approach to the business process, where the completion each new purchase order is tailored comprehensively to the client needs, is not only highly desirable, it is more efficient.

A Client who feels their requests are not being adequately met via a by-the-numbers approach can hold up the delivery of a contract indefinitely, but if, through the brokering process, the Client’s needs are extensively outlined from the outset, less time and money is wasted in the delivery of the dependable service you provide.

Not Being “too corporate”

The professional services world can feel oppressively impersonal at times. Throughout the constant flurry of organising the minutiae of bids and contracts, and with a constant eye on margins, there can be a temptation to think of ourselves as acting like cogs in a clockwork process that moves along procedurally with little regard for the more humanistic needs and concerns that largely govern how positive outcomes are achieved in business.

We can often forget that people like doing business with people. And significantly, people like working with people like themselves. When acting as a broker or intermediary, a strong sense of emotional intelligence is crucial. Often, the significant conversations between FM managers and contractors or associates can be so caught up on the size of the margin or the length of the contract that less immediate concerns, that are still important to both parties, are continuously side-lined or not addressed at all.

Effective brokers are able to tease out and address these issues to reach a middle ground solution that is more amenable to both sides but doing so requires more interaction with the opposite party on a human level. Workplace research consistently shows that more openness and transparency in business negotiations leads to more equitable outcomes, but also shows that such as outcomes are more likely to be achieved when a negotiating culture is adopted which prioritises the needs of parties before the I-dotting and T-crossing of the bottom line.

The danger of being “too corporate” in a negotiation is that you run the risk of never revealing or addressing issues that could hinder the long-term success of the partnership. Successful brokering and mediation should avoid treating individuals merely as links in the procedural chain of a business transaction. A more patient, democratic approach is far more likely to reap long-term rewards.