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Have you ever had a client who wants the universe, gift-wrapped, and delivered yesterday?

I’ve heard many IT departments claim that such excessive demands are exactly what their clients are insisting upon.expectations-danger-sign

But step back for just a moment and put on a different hat…. When you order a new PC over the web, what do you want as a customer?  Do you really believe the manufacturer should pay you $10,000 just to take that PC off his hands?  Do you think that FedEx will be ringing your doorbell with package in hand as soon as you hit SUBMIT on your purchase?

When you think about it, what do you as a customer want out of a product?  You want something that is of good quality, that is delivered on a timely basis, and that meets your needs.  But if the product you receive is excellent, will you always be totally satisfied with your buying experience?  Of course not.  Even if the product itself far exceeded your expectations but the order taker had been extremely arrogant and rude, you would see your buying experience as lacking.

Studies show that customers want to be taken seriously and for the service provider to explain things in their terms.  They want to understand what they should be able to expect … and they want that expectation to be met.  They want to be treated honestly with empathy and respect.  They want to be told of any options that might be available to them.  They would like for their service provider to be friendly and professional.  In an extended transaction, they want to be kept informed along the way.

Isn’t that what you want as a customer?  Is it possible then that this is exactly what IT’s clients want as well?

It’s not enough for IT to provide a top quality product; the “buying experience” is important as well.  An attitude of empathy is needed.  Have you heard the saying, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”?  IT must look at things “through the eyes of the client.”

One of the first steps is to establish expectations.  Without this, you are just setting yourself up for failure.  This process doesn’t have to be formal.  While formal service level agreements have their place, they can also be seen as contractual obligations which can create other issues.  Make it personal.  Develop the relationship.  Show you care.  Actively listen to ensure that you understand your client’s need, and then communicate with him in language that he understands.  Explain what he should expect from you.  Make sure those expectations are clear and specific.  Tell him the actions you will be taking and provide the rationale behind those actions.  Give him any options that might be available.

And after you deliver your quality product, consider finding a way to gently remind your client that you met the expectations you had established.  Take a cue from the airlines:  “Another on-time arrival!”

More to come on this subject in the future.  But let’s hear from you …. What are some of the things you are doing to ensure top-notch service for your clients?

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