I recently struck up a conversation with a seasoned businessman regarding relationships. His answer to avoiding misunderstandings in business and in personal relationships was to read the best-selling book Men are from Mars;Women are from Venus.

I admit that I was skeptical at first, expecting to get roped into a battle-of-the-sexes conversation. Instead, he explained that the book’s premise, which delves into the differences between genders, offers a well-formed take on a common communication problem — forgetting to view things from the other person’s perspective.

Regardless if one takes the book’s advice to heart in their marriage or dating relationships, this gentleman believed that the same lessons need to be applied to business operations.

Too often, owners and managers get caught up in their own daily tasks, forgetting that their business was founded on providing a service or product to someone else. Keeping that someone else foremost in mind will shed new light on how efficient or successful a company’s operations are.

In fact, this gentleman proceeded to explain how he periodically tries to “walk through his company’s services” from the perspective of a customer, from start to finish. If he has a few minutes free, he’ll call up a customer service representative to ask that person a technical question. When he sees a salesperson talking to a client, he’ll observe the prospect’s body language from afar to see if the person is giving signals of interest in the presentation. And when he’s in contract negotiation meetings he tends to sit back and let his executives handle the questions, observing how well they answer and what the questions might signal about what is missing from a bid.

As I listened to this gentleman, I realized the same tactics he used to measure his company’s customer service skills could come in quite handy for building service contractors. That’s why this month’s cover story, “Weighing In” addresses some common areas of customer frustration in cleaning operations.