That Ancient, Mystical Thing Called a Handshake

That Ancient, Mystical Thing Called a Handshake

Here at Certify, we have worked hard to document our company values and boil them down into a meaningful acronym: CPR SERVICE. Our number one company value (and hence the first letter of CPR SERVICE) is the letter C which stands for Customers.

Let’s talk about a company’s first customer and how that works. The company begins to offer a product and a prospective customer sees real value and is willing to pay some amount of real dollars to get it. The entrepreneurial soul recognizes this, does a quick calculation and says, “The price for this product is ten dollars.” The customer thinks for a moment about the effort and cost they would have to expend to acquire the product some other way, and then responds, “It’s a deal,” and hands over the money. Though today it may be an over-used cliché, in Western cultures this exchange has traditionally been sealed with a handshake.

There is something almost magical, perhaps mystical, about that handshake. The buyer and seller are making a pact; they are marking a moment in which they have a shared understanding and intent. They could stop and write it all down, and today, that is exactly what happens in modern business. But a written contract is only a way of formalizing and recording the intents of the buyer and seller at the moment that the handshake takes place.

The handshake is not a universal tradition here on planet Earth, but in many cultures and for thousands of years it has allowed two people to quickly form a social connection on a deeper level than with words alone. When used for the purpose of sealing a business agreement, it seems that Depeche Mode had it right – “The handshake seals the contract / from the contract there’s no turning back.” No turning back? Really?? Yes, basically. Any amount of turning back causes both parties to reflect upon that handshake with some level of regret. When that happens, both the buyer and seller think to themselves, “Well, I guess I know that person’s word is not trustworthy. No more shaking hands with him!”

But of course, there are many more situations in which a buyer and seller perform their agreed-upon duties. The seller delivers the product with the proper quality and timeliness, and the buyer delivers the agreed-upon payment. From that point on, the possibility exists that the buyer will experience that sometimes-elusive feeling of customer satisfaction, rather than buyer’s remorse. If the buyer is satisfied, it usually opens up opportunities for additional handshake transactions with other buyers, and now the seller has what we commonly call a startup business. The person doing the selling is now a founder.

This much is easy, but what if there are lots and lots of transactions taking place? If the business grows and sees a large volume of transactions, eventually there are simply too many transactions for the founder to service all alone and employees must be hired. Are buyers going to shake hands with every employee? Of course not, only with the founder. Whoa, wait a minute, now we have a problem! The employees who are not involved in the actual handshake don’t really know what was going through the minds of the buyer and seller at the time of the handshake. What would happen if the founder did all the handshaking and failed to communicate the spirit of each transaction with all of the employees? The result would be a large business that would have a hard time delivering customer satisfaction. Ever seen one of those?

This is why we focus our company values first of all on the word Customers. The handshake at the heart of every customer relationship has different implications for each department within Certify. Our Marketing department must accurately describe our product and services, without bending the truth. Our Sales staff must be fully knowledgeable about our products and services so that customers can get their specific questions answered without ambiguity. Our Service organization must carry the original intent of the handshake through Implementation and into Support. Our Product team must ensure our software is working as designed, and that new designs continue to match the original intent of the handshake.

If Certify successfully walks the path of the handshake through the entire customer lifecycle, the result will be happy customers. From experience, we have seen that being involved in this process is the most rewarding aspect of any career. The challenge we all face is focusing on the almost mystical handshake – the original intent of the buyer and seller when the agreement was made. If we are properly executing our core values, our customers will know that they come first, just like the letter C in CPR SERVICE. Cue Depeche Mode…

Alan Neveu

Certify, CTO