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Something that I’ve discussed many times over the years with other IT consultants is the issue of when and how to expose source information to customers.  It’s obviously a subjective thing, given the varying degrees of customer capability and understanding.  However, for the customers who “get it”, and understand the nuts and bolts; those who enlist your help because they simply need:

  • More eyes and hands to handle the additional load
  • More perspectives to see angles they might have overlooked

…should you point them directly to the source YOU are referencing, or paraphrase it for them?  The most common factor guiding this is (from my experience alone) has been ego.

Ego and fear, to be more accurate.

Digression

If you haven’t figured out yet what I’m referring to, it’s those cases when you get a call, IM, email, or whatever from a panicked customer. They hand you some explanation, and (hopefully) some log data, etc.  You look at it and either:

  • Instantly recognize the root cause, or …
  • Begin your web search

When you find a solution on the web, whether it be WindowsNoob, SystemCenterDudes, TechNet, MSDN, W3 Schools, StackOverflow, SuperUser, or what have you, you have to make a quick decision as to whether you simply forward the URL to the customer, or paraphrase, as if you developed the solution on your own.  To me, aside from the efficiency aspect, the latter is really disingenuous (at the very least, always cite your sources).

Okay, back to normal font coloring…

THOUGHT:  If you point waiting customers to an article, or video, will they stop coming to you for future problems?  It depends.

In this regard, it’s really tied to HOW you deliver that information, more so than WHAT you deliver.  If you repeatedly hand them links with little or no prefacing, then they will see you as NOT adding any value to the pipeline.  It’s like going to a restaurant to engage a chef who takes your order, and then hands you a phone number to call for delivery.

Customers would rather the chef explain the menu, recommend things, with certain conditions, and do so with a pleasant, calming, and reassuring demeanor.  It’s called customer service.

If you add some value, some explanation, the pros and cons, the caveats, the disclaimers, the scenarios and so on, you’re adding value.  Do you need to do this EVERY single time?  No.  But you should be doing this the majority of the times when it occurs.

Case in Point

A customer recently added a new site within their global Configuration Manager hierarchy, but noticed clients were ignoring it, and continued to interact with the existing primary site.

The root cause was simple enough: they hadn’t yet modified their site boundaries and boundary groups to point clients in the new site to the new site server.  They moved, but forgot to fill-out a change of address form, so the mail was still getting sent to the old house.

I scrounged around and found a good, and concise, article on how to address that.  Then I added a brief explanation about why, and how, and pasted in the URL.  Then I closed the message with an offer to assist, if needed.  That doesn’t look too pushy or eager, and offers a “benefit of the doubt” towards the customer, that I’m allowing room to assume they are technically capable of adapting the article to their own ends.

This is particularly useful for customers who start with a presumption that all consultants are only looking for billable time.  Ultimately, we are, but delayed gratification almost always pays off better than impulsive knee-jerking.  Eh.  Whatever.  It usually works very well from what I’ve seen.

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