Return on Relationships
Rory Murray has been writing a series of articles on Return on Relationships (http://www.ecademy.com/module.php?mod=blog&uid=72666). In these articles he states,
"Over the past 100+ years the "West" has moved from economies based mainly on tangible products, from manufacturing and agriculture, to being far more service based, with commodities and products more typically manufactured elsewhere and imported. In turn, our own cultures have become much more reliant on services and knowledge as a tradeable commodity and we are even importing cheap labour to do the jobs we don't want to do and those living comfortably on social welfare can't be bothered to do. Even menial IT-related work and other stuff that doesn't require too much specific knowledge is being "off-shored".
You're then left with a strange situation - Whilst a company is making and selling a product, it's pretty straight-forward to measure and compare like for like against its competitors and decide what represents best value and to work out what the return on investment (ROI) is likely to be.
However, when you move into a world based more on knowledge and soft-skills, rather than products, there is a greater proportion that is intangible, whether it is writing software code or going to an osteopath. Working out if that's good value for money is much harder, because it's not just a function of cost-per-hour, or whatever and it may be that it's years later you realise the code you had written for 50 pence per hour less is complete garbage (how much did Y2K cost the City of London?) -What's the cost of just suspecting it may not be perfect and having to get it checked?
On this basis, trusted relationships become much more important - dealing with people you trust (ideally people you like, trust AND respect). On this basis, it becomes critical that we invest our time in building strong trust-based relationships that help our business to move forwards and surround ourselves with knowledgeable people who can help us to succeed.......... but how do you measure the impact of this investment on your business. Can you calculate Return On Relationships?"
"The vision for CRM (Customer Relationship Management) a few years back was to maximise the value of every customer interaction and the longterm value of the relationships, but that assumes you've already won the customer, or got the "prospect" on your radar. CRM didn't work then and I don't think it's really there yet, because CRM is software and relationships are about people."
"It's clear that there's nothing new about introductions and trust-based relationships, referrals and recommendations have been the basis of business transactions across the world since before Noah built a boat! But now, as we move into a global economy, fuelled by the Internet, relationships take on a whole new meaning and when we are selling nothing more than knowledge, it is the investment in the relationships that will yield results, not the investment in products that we are used to measuring in terms of calculating returns and profitability."
"ROR in simple terms is ROI (Return on Investment) where the investment is in time and effort taken to build relationships"
"In the business sense Return on Relationships is, therefore a function of goodwill generated towards the Brand(s) and Product(s) of a company. Whether it is a car, or a hair shampoo, people will make purchasing decisions based on factors relating to goodwill and as the value of the purchase increases (either emotionally or financially) the degree to which we Like, Trust and Respect a brand becomes more important. "
Technical Communication has a role in maximising an organisation's Return on Relationships. It provides a relationship between you and your customer at times when you are not there in person, by phone or email.
As Rory has said, ROR is hard to measure. An easier approach may be to look at an organisation's "Comparative Relationship Advantage" (CRA)
If people start to focus on ROR or CRA then perhaps people will be more willing to invest more in user assistance.