Despite my intentions to get some content on this website and launch it properly as soon as possible, this is the first time I’ve been able to post anything for a week – basically because I’ve been without the Internet for 6 days! Not that I haven’t been gainfully employed – pretty much every hour of each of those days (when I’ve been working in my home office anyway) I’ve been on the phone to the ISP, traveling between home and one of the ISP’s shops (to collect various forms of modem equipment) or in the actual shop – or doing 2 of those things at the same time. It’s been frustrating, soul destroying and time wasting – and all the way through I kept trying to think about ways to negotiate a solution that would see the Internet service reinstated, my technical issues investigated without the need to turn off the less than ideal service altogether and to not have to pay more money for new equipment that I wasn’t convinced would solve the problem!
So what’s this got to do with Big Hearted Business? (And thanks for sticking with me this far!) Well, one of the reasons that I needed Internet access is that I’d promised to upload a copy of the presentation slides that used when I presented at the (un-)Conference a couple of weeks ago – which, among other things, are all about how to plan for any negotiation. Originally Clare Bowditch asked me to talk about reading contracts, protecting copyright AND asking for what you want…. but then there were so many awesome sessions to fill, my time got squeezed down to 20 minutes (which I’m pretty sure I went over!) and I focused on the question: “How do you ask for what you want”
In a nutshell, asking for what you want comes down to a few little things:
- getting comfortable with talking about money – especially when you’re asking for it;
- knowing what you want (and where you must walk away from the discussion); and
- understanding what the person you’re asking wants too (and, ideally, when they’ll walk away from the discussion).
Easy schmeazy? Uh, not always….. take a look at the slides and let me know what you think or what questions you have.
So given my lengthy discussions with my ISP over the past week, I thought it might make sense to talk quickly about how the concepts described in the slides were relevant to those discussions – and see whether I took my own advice!
- There was never an option for me to ask the ISP for money – though, it was important to make it clear along the way that the interruption to my service was an inconvenience and could cost me money – and ultimately to request compsensation for that in the form of a reduction of our bill and the provision of new equipment by them for no additional charges. Whilst that requires a level of confidence and comfort with my own ‘value’ – it’s not quite the same as looking a potential customer in the eye and asking them to confirm the value of your goods or services by agreeing a dollar figure.
- Whilst many might have thought about the series of telephone calls about a technical problem as a technical problem only, I approached the dicsussion as a negotiation from the beginning – which meant thinking about the extent to which the people I was dealing with had authority to make decisions, and to which they were motivated to solve my problem – or to make me ‘go away’. Also, from the very begining I needed to be clear on what I wanted – and when I’d be prepared to walk away.
- So, what were my best alternatives to negotiating an agreement (BATNA) with the ISP? Well, I could go to another provider (which, frankly, would be cheaper) BUT until the technical problems are solved, no other provider is prepared to take us on – because they’re worried that they won’t be able to meet their service levels! So, in a nutshell, my alternative to finding a way through the technical mire is to go without Internet…. a pretty low BATNA at the end of the day.
- But what’s the ISP’s BATNA? Well, I’m but one of millions of customers and they are a massive organisation. Yep, it could be that they don’t really care whether they do business with me or not. However, as far as customers go I’m a pretty good one. I’ve been with them a long time, I pay my bills on time and I buy a lot of products and services. And whilst I’m no social media powerhouse, my “Klout” score is above average, so perhaps they don’t want me pointing out their failures too much. I’m also able, politely, to point out the competition law elements of their conduct and I’m not afraid to refer to the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) or the ACCC in my discussions with them. So they could work out pretty quickly that I could be a pain in the neck to deal with if my problem isn’t sorted. Even so – the space for a conversation about our relationship? Limited to say the least.
So where did I end up? Well the internet is connected again…. and sure, it took a week (which is far from ideal) but it appears that I won’t be paying for the services we didn’t get and my equipment has all been upgraded. I won’t know for a week or two whether the underlying problem is solved – but if it is, I can change to another service provider. In the circumstances I think that’s a good result.
I’d love to hear how you apply these concepts to a ‘negotiation’ you’re undertaking….