Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Customers love flexibility

Flexibility can be difficult to pull off, but your customers will love you for it. 

Let's face it, customers are fickle beasts. Their taste change, their time lines change, and (too often) their requirements change. As service providers we need to do our best to keep up with this.

There are really only two options for dealing with changes:

  • Block them
  • Roll with them
Just because there are only two choices doesn't mean that it will be an easy decision. It shouldn't be. Every time you are presented with a change from a customer you need to really think about the impact of that change and make sure that it will work for you and your customer. 

The worst thing that you can do is try to accommodate a change that you can't execute. 

A prime example, I am currently working on a project for a customer that is scheduled for 6 weeks. But the customer has some issues with the project that are going to push the timeline out by a couple more weeks. 

Do I block the change, and force the timeline, or do I try to accommodate? It would be easy to block. "Sorry but this is the project schedule and I am going to stick with it." If my schedule was booked solid with back-to-back projects I might have to block this change. I wouldn't want to impact other customer projects because of this one. 

In this case, because I don't normally do project work, I have the luxury of being flexible. I can push the schedule however the client needs. There will definitely be some pain associated with push it since I do have a "day job" but it is not unreasonable. This will make the client's life easier and they will appreciate the effort. 

It isn't always this easy to accommodate, usually it is much more difficult, but the clients really appreciate it. As a rule I always try to accommodate changes, unless there is a compelling reason not to. 

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