Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The relationship / time matrix

I was discussing matters with a colleague last week who could be called a "Distance service provider" - that is to say that their services were provided over the internet, mail, telephone, but not directly face to face.

This organisation were surprised at just how much conflict they had to deal with between the service provider and the consumer.

We had an interesting chat about an idea that occured to me there and then, namely the relationship / time matrix.

We explored whether the problem might be one of low relationship combined with long time delays between communications. Why should that provide a problem?

We came onto narrative theory. Within any given transaction there will be markers.

I placed my order on this date. I enquired by phone on this date and then the goods arrived on this date.

The problem is that the gaps between those recorded incidents then get filled with supposition as each party assumes what has been happening and what the other party has intended.

Within this particular industry, the relationship between provider and consumer of the service was low. This could have an impact given that it reduced understanding between the parties, leaving larger gaps to fill in with suppositions. Furthermore if the relationship had not been developed then there was nothing to preserve there through ensuring that we communicated carefully.

We then explored whether that low relationship was then compounded by the time between each response or element within the communication.

Whenever one party or the other raised a point, typically through correspondence, then there was a time delay. That creates more space to fill with second guessing.

We kicked about looking at a way of possibly reducing such conflict by enhancing the relationship to develop better understanding between provider and consumer, and also challenging the means of communication, systems and processes to ensure that such issues were handled more promptly.

It has led to me thinking, however, how such a matrix would map out. As relationship increases then we would presumably have some more lassitude on time. Indeed, we need to build in time if relationships are to be developed. But there will come a point on that time curve where longer time - too much time - will start to affect the relationship itself.

There you have it. A most nebulous of nebulous thoughts. I'll let you know of further developments on it. Is anyone else working on similar ideas?

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