I work in IT for the last 20 years or so. I remember DOS 3.1, GEM, Novell 3.x networks, and BNC connectors. Of 20 years only 1 (one) year, I was a customer. All other times I was on the vendor’s side.
For a large portion of that 20 years, I worked for three companies. In each and every one of them, I have to take care of customers. As most service providers know, it is quite important that the customer is happy. 😉
That’s what I do. Keep customers happy in every possible way. As a vendor, it is not a simple task. There is almost always a discrepancy between customers’ expectations of the amount of value getting for money and the vendor’s will to give for the same amount. But every single time they have to make business together. Otherwise, there is no deal.
Almost every customer/service provider relationship which includes services got defined Service Level Agreement (SLA) of some kind, Rules of Engagement, or something similar where the relationship has to be very well described. Otherwise deal is no good for any part in such an agreement.
There is one thing most of us hate. Sheer and simple – Please Wait. Years ago almost everyone cursed Microsoft Windows due to sluggish performance. There is no need for that anymore. I actually do not remember where was last time I had to wait for something due to the computer as a reason. I am writing this on Lenovo Chromebook.
Most of the waiting now I can put in two different boxes. The first one, totally normal and simple, is waiting for a response by mail (or something similar); David Shipley and Will Schwalbe even wrote a book about that (Send, like 10 years ago). At that particular time, everyone usually answered mail in a minute or so. Research in Motion (now Blackberry) manages to build a business empire on that fact. Fortunately, that time is behind us. No one really expects to get a reply by mail right away. It is normal to get a response the next day or when another side just finds time to answer. People suddenly realized that constant mail checking is no friend of productivity.
The second type of waiting is when I wait for something to happen or some condition to fulfill. For example, quite often I wait for a quote or someone to make the decision which can be important for ongoing projects or something similar. In operations, there are a lot of such waiting (I know someone would put it in the first type of waiting but that is wrong if I ask me; yes mail can be medium for notify but it is not the same).
A few days ago I had an appointment at the customer premises. We spoke a few times about work we have to, agreed on work scope, timeline, and everything (it was a simple task really, nothing complicated) but what happened?
I had to wait. 🙂
For more than an hour, I had to wait. Customers identified something fishy is going inside their complex system and decided to solve that right away. As I am not in a position to override the decisions I set in their cafe and wait. In the meanwhile, I done some work waiting to be done, had a nice coffee and a great cookie.
Customer apologized. Of course, all apologies were not really necessary but accepted without any problems or hesitation. There is nothing wrong with such a scenario. Someone decided you are not the most important thing at a particular moment.
Every one of you dealing with customers knows one thing for sure: they always wait for us and we are taking that for granted. They do not have to wait for us, there is someone else who will be quicker and will put customers less in a “please wait” position.
As long as your customer knows she or he can put you “on hold” and ask to wait for something more important to be solved and as long this customer will have the patience to wait for you – you are in a clean and clear relationship. As business relationships should look like.