Customer First

I just left a meeting with the CEO of a Financial Services firm and he made a comment about a customer story we were discussing.  I was talking about a client who had asked us to get involved with something, we have said we would support them, but we really think they should look at the problem differently and that the different way is truely in their best interest. The fellow I was meeting with said:

Steve, that is the real value.  Put the customer and their needs truely first even when they don’t see it"

In working with customers it is always difficult to know when and how to help them get to where they want to go. Quite often coming in with new perspective gives us an opportunity to have a new view.  The challenge as Jim would way is "readiness". And if the "Client is King" then what they are ready for is the right thing.

So though the fellow I met with today is bang on and I hope that is exactly what we are doing in each client situation.  The question is … is the customer’s needs what we see or what they see?

  1. Stephen Reply

    Great comment Jim,
    Pressure is a great motivator and certainly a strong motivator. Actions often come from:
    1. Moving away from pain
    2. Moving towards gain.
    So when pressure is added it is often the first motivation, to reduce the pressure. The challenge is to set the tone of the environment that is more gain focused.
    Sticks can often backfire. Like when buying a newly built home or renovating. When the contractor falls behind and you constantly beat them about it, they only have so many options to take to make good, and the one which means shoddy workmanship behind the drywall will hurt.
    So if I also remember the story to which you refer, that same boss also sent out an email to the team praising them about how happy he was about this new system and the value it was going to bring to the organization and so on.

  2. jimhayward Reply

    Readiness is a fascinating concept because everybody hears and does only what they are ready to do and hear. However sometimes they are not ready to make the big leap but will make a step in the right direction. When that is successful their readiness increases.
    Another factor affecting readiness is the pressure the person feels to solve the problem. This pressure can come from real deadlines or from demands from higher management.
    Another fascinating aspect is one of fear. Often when a project is near completion and a sign off is required, a person will show a lack of readiness. The clue at that point is to cut off avenues of escape. You often need real deadlines or upper management preesure to conteract the fear.
    One of my favourites was when we were working on a Customer Information Center and the user had to sign off to go live. He came up with all kinds of excuses. His boss had a review with him every week and made an action list for him and the developer. Eventually he ran out of excuses not to switch to the new system. New systems scare people because they may not understand the old system but at least they know how to use it.

  3. Stephen Hayward Reply

    A great point. You made me think back to the dot com days when many consultants were being arrogant I know your business better than you versus good advisors and listeners.

  4. mip Reply

    I think the customer’s needs is a blend of what they perceive as their need and what you as an IT professional can see.
    From my experience, clients turned to me to provide that “look-at-things-differently” experience. I’m the IT expert and that’s why they’ve hired me. But I am always acutely aware of an important thing – from the energy industry, to insurance, to manufacturing, the IT situations are often the same but the businesses have things specific to them. My clients always know their business better than I could ever know it (I would hope). So it’s a blend of the two perceived needs, but I’d put a greater weight on the client’s perception of needs once I’ve stress tested the assumptions.

  5. Stephen Reply

    In thinking about my comment from yesterday, this also applies to how our clients should work with their end business users.
    1. Client
    2. Service Provider
    This is not to create a subsurvient relationship, but to honour priorities in focus.

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