Developing Thoughts 8

Yet more of my old words…

Giving the customer what they want

The old saying, “The customer is always right”, is often taken too literally and many customers believe it allows them rights and privileges beyond what should reasonably be expected. However, the one thing that we must remember is that the customer is always right to choose only that which meets their requirements. A freelance provider of services to the games industry, when dealing with customers, must be very aware of that, because the moment they feel that this is not the case is the moment when they would no longer require those services.

Regardless of how a person may feel about the work they’ve taken on, once they have agreed to undertake it they must treat it with a fully professional attitude and deliver what has been defined. The temptation to adjust or deviate from the requirements of the customer must be resisted at all costs. Even if it’s felt that those changes would improve the product being contributing to.

It may well be that part of the remit is to do exactly that. To work up new ideas and suggest areas where improvements could be made. They have decided that this particular expertise and experience is what their project needs to inject freshness into the process. But even then, finding out where the boundaries lie is an important thing to do. Without knowing these boundaries, not only will there be a risk of alienating the customer by re-working areas that they may well be perfectly happy with, but time will have been wasted if the work is rejected. If it falls outside the boundaries of the person’s role in the project, then it will also be work that they will not be able to charge for.

Because finding out what the customer wants is of prime importance, only by asking plenty of questions will the knowledge be gained to deliver what the customer wants. Assumptions should never be made that are based upon initial perceptions of the project, because the likelihood is that it will be nothing like those assumptions. A clear definition of the project would be an ideal place to start, along with a clear statement of the required role. If the role overlaps with those of other people, it would be wise to ask if those people could be included in any briefing sessions so that all parties are working as a team.

Sometimes the role that the client has in mind isn’t clearly defined because they are unsure what they need. By asking questions, it not only helps define the service provider’s role, but could also help the customer define their own place in the working relationship.

Once the answers have been obtained and the work defined, it’s always worth summarising this in a document, which should consist of a brief breakdown of the work involved. Estimates of all times should be done as accurately as possible, particularly if it’s the early stages of the project and the work involved may have a big impact on the schedule. Then, when the work is delivered, it should not be late. It’s vitally important that each agreed milestone is met.

If you don’t deliver what the customer wants, then the customer is always right to not be interested in working with you again.

© Steve Ince, 2004