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The customer DO knows what he wants

You usually expect that a client is someone looking for your products or services to address some need or desire. So knowing what is needed or desired is a must. It is quite usual to say “the customer doesn’t know what he wants”, as if it would fix the situation. Is this way of thinking something productive or can we handle the issue in any other way?

Let’s go…

I open my umbrella: the customer does always know what he or she wants. A different issue is his capacity of explaining it to workers or providers… Or these last not being able to understand what it is being asked from them. A customer who is looking for solutions is a customer in pain. Do we prefer to complain about the customer is a useless piece of meat who needs to be rescued by us riding our technological-perfection-white-horse? Or is it better to struggle and fight that pain, get paid for it and be called again in the future?

Stop crying all the time. It is nice crying to your significant, to your parents or to your partners as a confident relief, but not as as project analytical method of project feasibility,  because, sincerelly, I don’t think it could be productive.

Usually, the thing is not the customer not knowing what he wants, what happens is that he doesn’t know the how, the when and how much valuable it is what he wants. But answering these things must be done by the one who is going to solve them! Sometimes, it seems that we want to delegate the task of evaluating our work to our customer. We must know how to listen to the customer and pose the most adequate methodology. For example, many times, a customer who “doesn’t know what he wants” just wants to develop a product by using Agile methods and he doesn’t know. But we do. What are we waiting for?

The rush

This previous tirade is related with one of the three mentioned aspects: the when. For me, the parameter which makes me realise how little reliable is to work for a customer is not the money nor the quality of the product but the bad management of timing. Here is where I notice that many customers have no fucking idea. Anyone who needs more or less custom services about something unknown for him must honor the expert timing. So, I think that:

  • We must be in control of the timing of the development. The customer just must warn us if we are or not in time, inside the context of the project (where we might be only a part). If El cliente deberá, como mucho, indicarnos si vamos bien o mal de tiempo dentro del contexto de su proyecto (en el cual podemos ser sólo una parte). Given discussions about “this is getting too much time” or “hurry up!”, we should be able to explain the value our work and make the customer understand that achieving that value takes time.
  • If the customer doesn’t understand it, we must measure. Propose any metodology to assign priorities to tasks or histories, measure how long does it take to complete tastks, … Agree with the customer some metrics which allows us state what comes first and what after, and detect why does it take more or less time depending on each case. If you don’t do this, you will cry afterwards because the customer is pushing you and is paying little.
  • All this requires of the key of any single service given as an independent professional: trust. The client must understand that there is no need to press us in and that we understand his needs. Obviously we can’t stretch the timing, but neither we must make development marathons which give a fast-job feeling. I don’t mean it can’t be done, but quality will possibly suffer in this case.

If a customer is in a total hurry, run away. If a customer is in no hurry, run away. In the first case he will look as if he wouldn’t know what he wants because he cant see the value of the cure, in the long haul overall and in the second case, it will because he is not capable of worrying about ending his pain (or maybe the pain is not so important). All this usually mixes with the incapability of our customer to calculate the value that our work will give to him. Do we prefer to complain about how dumb he is or do we prefer to help and have a win-win?

Please, leave your comment!

About the author

Dani Ramírez

Artesano del conocimiento, del software y los juegos de mesa. También Ex-CEO de una empresa que nunca dio beneficios, Ex-programador a tiempo completo, Ex-estudiante de ingeniería... Knowledge, software and board game craftsman. Also, Ex-CEO-of-a-company-which-never-had-profits, Ex-full-time-programmer, Ex-engineering-student, ...

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  1. Chiva Chula Tol-le

    Bueno, tú que también has trabajado en el sur como yo, sabes que también está el cliente que “sabe” lo que quiere. O sea, el que no tiene ni idea, pero te explica con pelos y señales lo que quiere… por supuesto que no tiene ni pies ni cabeza lo que te pide, pero lo quiere. Y está el que quiere… un facebook programado desde cero en 3 semanas porque vió la peli. Realmente tenemos que ser unos sicólogos en estos casos para hacerle ver al cliente que no se puede pedir lo que es imposible, o que lo que pide realmente no lo necesita, o está mal cimentado.

    1. Dani Ramírez

      Claro, pero eso es lo que comento. “No tiene ni idea” de parámetros, de tecnologías, de tiempos… pero de lo que le duele y de qué espera obtener, sí. El problema de querer un Facebook en 3 semanas está en las 3 semanas y, ¿quién mejor que nosotros para hacer ver que eso no es posible? No entro ya en el terreno de la cabezonería; hablo de un cliente que confíe en nosotros y que nos escuche. Igual debería añadir que, de un cliente cabezota, ¡hay que huir también!

  2. Alfonso Sánchez

    Ains esta historia me recuerda a algo viviendo hace cierto tiempo en un lugar muy muy lejano

    1. Dani Ramírez

      A todos nos recuerda a alguna o algunas historias así… en galaxias no tan lejanas 😉

  3. Cristinoide

    Con todo de acuerdo siempre y cuando “lo que quiere” el cliente no cambie con el tiempo. Pero ¡ay amigo! donde dije digo, digo Diego… Y lo digo como cliente, que conste.

    1. Dani Ramírez

      Para esos cambios en el tiempo están las metodologías ágiles, por ejemplo. Gracias por comentar!

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