Questions and answers

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's time once again to head to the annual ASIS International conference, this year in sunny Anaheim. Maybe you don't go to ASIS (that's okay--I'm going for you), but I can't think of many shows that offer such a great opportunity to be a fly on the wall.

Well, maybe a fly that can talk.

All the good customer service guys talk about listening to the customer, and that's important, but I don't hear often enough about asking questions.

To paraphrase a former White House official, end users may not know what they don't know. So, while it can be great to sit in on seminars and hear end users talk about their pain points, you've got to ask them questions about their operations, about how they put together their risk assessments, about how they've been burned in the past and how their expectations have been formed.

The page 14 story about New Year Tech's new biometrics solution is a perfect example of a company that did more than listen. While other integrators listened to the Boyd School and told them what they wanted was impossible or not worth it, New Year asked a series of questions to find out exactly what Boyd was hoping to accomplish.

In reporting the software special report this month, a number of software makers noted they'd never been asked those kinds of questions before: What does "stable" mean? Well, it turns out it means something different to every manufacturer. Are you asking your vendors to back up their claims?

At ASIS, you're presented with an opportunity to ask end users questions in a forum where they feel comfortable talking about their operations, and you've got vendors in a spot where they're desperate for your business. Go there armed with the five Ws: Who, what, where, why and when. It's amazing how much information those five words can elicit.