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?
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?
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?
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