Wednesday 25 April 2007

Business Principles: Keep that commitment ... or else.

I am just a little more than cranky right now! :*Þ

I don't like it when someone makes a commitment with me and then breaks it without even having the courtesy to call me ahead of time and let me know that they won't be making it. I then blow a bunch of time that could have otherwise been used productively elsewhere.

I myself had a real problem with not communicating with my clients when scheduling didn't work out. Fortunately, with a lot of coaching by my Dad and former employer Larry MacDonald, I have come a long way.

It really is important to communicate with our clients when we are not able to make an appointment.

We who do this kind of work in the I.T. industry know that our schedules can be very fluid. There are just too many variables that may come together to keep us at an appointment or service call a lot longer than we were expecting.

Some wisdom from a couple of my favourite Star Trek engineers in Scotty (original series) and B'Elanna Tores (Voyager): Quote 2 hours and get it done in 1!

Even then, we can fall behind.

So, what do we do?

First: We educate our clients by letting them know we prioritize our schedule according to the impact an issue may have on their business. The higher the impact, the greater the priority.

Second: We call ahead of time to let them know that we are on time, ahead of schedule, or running behind. We rework the scheduled appointment if need be.

The benefits to maintaining this manner of communicating with our clients are now obvious to me:
  1. Trust: Our clients come to trust that we have their best interests at heart.
  2. Clarity: Our clients know where we stand with regards to our appointment with them at all times.
  3. Reliability: We fulfil their I.T. needs in a timely manner.
  4. Honesty: Our clients know we will let them know ahead of time if we are unable to keep an appointment.
Most people understand how the priorities work.

Most people appreciate that they will be given preferential treatment if their business is impacted by a critical situation. Because if this appreciation, most people won't mind if they have a minor issue to deal with and they get bumped because of a critical issue with another one of our clients. They know we will get to them as soon as we can.

There are occasions where we drop the ball. We miss an appointment and do not let our client know. There are any number of reasons why this can happen. But, when it does, we make it clear to our client that we made a serious mistake, we apologize, and we offer to make it right by some form of restitution.

As far as this missed appointment, this is the third time it has happened. I have a three strike rule. Sorry buddy, but you are out. Don't expect any response from me again. By breaking so many appointments with me without the courtesy of a phone call or by calling 20 minutes after the appointment time, I am left feeling that you don't place any value on my time. Say, "Bubbye - cya".

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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