The Kinesis Client Services team had an interesting lunch conversation recently that we have decided to share via this blog. A business associate told a story about how she had been called by a customer over the weekend (on her mobile phone, of course!) in order to obtain advice for purchasing a new computer. She was quite surprised because the computer wasn’t for work, and the call had nothing to do with their professional relationship. After hearing this scenario, a lengthy conversation ensued amongst our group as to whether or not a request for personal advice, outside of business hours, is appropriate.
Appropriate or not, this kind of thing happens in business on a regular basis. Due in large part to social media, work partnerships and friendships cross paths like never before. The customer referenced in the above paragraph probably considers the Client Services rep that he called for computer advice to be friend. In fact, they may BE Facebook friends and connected on LinkedIn. They probably do work “favors” for each other routinely, but is it acceptable to extend that goodwill beyond work and into their personal relationship?
We feel this issue is especially timely given that outside forces are beginning to permeate the field of market research. “Favors” have long been part of the game for our industry; we have all had projects where the incidence rate did not measure up to what had been assured, where the number of completes went well beyond what was budgeted for a project, and on and on. For many years our industry has rallied together and helped each other out – often by subsidizing end clients’ projects at our own expense. But now as power players like Google and Twitter increasingly move into our space, it will be interesting to see if the market research industry will maintain the same mutual support / esprit d’corps.
Understanding that today’s always connected lifestyle means that customers and coworkers can reach us any time of the day or night, it is up to each of us to draw our own boundaries and decide how much work and play crossover we want in our lives. But there is a fine line – a judgment call really – as to what constitutes a reasonable favor and what crosses the boundary (or even borders on abuse), for both a company and for each individual employee. For the most part everyone prefers working in an environment of give and take, and favors are often a necessary part of retaining business. Furthermore, it only makes good business sense for Client Services reps to strive to have a solid “friendship” with every client. Good customer service is vital to the market research industry. It’s what makes the projects come in on time and under budget. It creates the stress that energizes us to continually do more with less and to innovate when we must. We just need to decide if the boundary lines need an individual, or a collective, adjustment – and if it will possible to keep up the spirit of reciprocity as we move toward increasingly self-service business models.