I tweeted sometime ago that “if a template is all you offer, you really don’t have much to offer”

Let me explain.

For the purpose of this post, the term “customer” can mean anybody you interact with — not just money-paying person seeking products/services.

Too many times, we get locked into this mode of supplying a template somebody comes to us for an answer. This could be in a business transaction or employee motivation or anything for that matter. No emotions, no empathy, no niche, no expression of desire to help. “Here, please fill up this template and send it back!” And by the way, templates don’t always come in spreadsheets. They take many forms, but usually have a rigid set of solutions around the “if-then-else” logic. But life and business hardly present us problems that can be resolved with templates or templatized mindsets.

Why is this gesture bad?

Whether it is a person-to-person transaction or a multi-million dollar deal, all of us have the need to be heard and understood. By giving somebody a template, we are basically telling them we’ve empowered ourselves to not spend any time thinking about your problem, instead try to fit it into a set of rules.

Are templates evil?

Templates are not bad. In fact, they are great. Templates are a checklist for the person providing the answers. A solution provider is supposed to be an intelligent and human, with the checklist serving the purpose of making sure s/he has covered everything, to which there is a hitherto chance of erring. Templates help standardize, maintain consistency and completeness. But standardization also means repeatable, industrialized and most importantly, emotion-less. Especially when template is not accompanied by a human emotion.

Besides, what is your role anyways?

Just think about this. If all you do is provide templates, exactly why are you required? The job of providing templates is rather mechanical and could potentially be done by another person (in the flat world, I must say — another cheaper person)

What can you do?

Take this from me. People don’t really need an expert, when all the expert does is supply templates. And even if they don’t tell on face, here is the truth: they do not value him. What can you do? You can be remarkable; you can be human by remembering a simple rule. The template is for you, try not sending the template (email is another evil, but that’s off-topic). Instead pick up the phone and ask them the same questions as if you genuinely meant to ask them. Call it value add or niche. I tend to call this emotional labor. Of course, emotional labor is not everything, rather a humble start.

Originally published at www.sastwingees.org on April 25, 2010.