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Customer Service for Consultants

Brandon Beacher

At Highgroove, we value customer service along with programming. Our customers arrive at our shop with concerns needing attention. Here are a few common ones:

  • They are new to software development

  • They have a fixed budget

  • They have a defined time frame

  • They need help on an existing project which is in trouble

  • They need assurance we will be available after the project is complete

It helps us to imagine questions our customer might have:

  • Am I choosing the right team to bring my project to life?

  • Will my budget be spent wisely?

  • Will my project be done on time?

  • Can these consultants succeed where others have not?

  • Who will I call when I find a bug, or need a new feature?

Staying mindful of our customers allows us to deliver better service. Here are some techniques we recommend:

  • Use your customer’s terminology. It might feel good to ramble on in code-speak in front of a customer, but resist the urge or stop yourself short if you catch yourself doing this. Customers who are new to software development are better served if you stick to the terminology of their domain, rather than indulging in yours.

  • Always deliver working software. Customers on a fixed budget are stranded if you’re halfway done with bunch of features but you’ve blown the budget. Break features down into small stories which can be accurately estimated. Then, commit and deploy these completed stories early and often, steadily delivering value.

  • Be brutally honest when estimating time. This is personally a tough one for me. Resist the urge to be an overly optimistic Superman. Customers take your word when you give estimates. Make sure that your features will be ready for the demo they’ve scheduled.

  • Know when to say no. Many projects are in trouble because they’re lacking constraint. Customers with a troubled project are likely in need of a fresh set of eyes to trim the fat and ship a working product, rather than a perfect one.

  • Establish a relationship. Some consultants are passionate about programming at the expense of customer service. They can be overly defensive when times get rough, even abandoning projects and burning bridges. Customers are best served by consultants who keep a cool head and guide a project to completion. When a project is complete, the bumps in the road become memories, and a satisfied customer provides new projects and enthusiastic referrals.

What techniques do you use to deliver better service to your customers?

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