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When Quality Service Affects Quality Software

Filed Under Quality Controls, Thought Stuff


Imagine this, you are in a meeting with a client and they request something absurd. You respond that it is a bad idea from a technology view. Your business analyst (program manager, whatever) shoots you a look while calming the client and saying “of course we can do that feature“.

Sound familiar? If it doesn’t you haven’t been in the business long. While the last few years in the software consulting business have been great, I have had problems adapting to some of the consultant mentality.

The saying “provide a great customer experience” floats around often. I can completely agree with this; however it appears that engineers and businessmen view quality service from different perspectives.

Engineers would like to believe that a great customer experience is derived from two things: the delivered software and their professional opinions and expertise that created the software.

Businessmen view great customer experience as being as accommodating as possible. Making customers feel important and in control. This part of business should be accredited as well, it is an important part that keeps customers returning.

But here is the problem with these polar views…

Engineers may not care if the client experience is blunt, harsh, or hard-to-swallow; as long as the delivered software perfectly fits the customer’s need and is something the engineer is proud of.

On the other hand, the businessman is more interested in ensuring that the client walks away with a feeling of satisfaction over quality software, which might lead to feature creep and unrealistic promises. The perspective is that a happy customer with a piece of crap is better than a customer with great software but an unpleasant experience.

Maintaining customer relationships is like running a restaurant – you need to provide both quality service and product. If your favorite Italian restaurant is out of the lasagna, they will politely say they are out of the lasagna and give you other options – realistic and polite. They do not bluntly declare “Impossible!“, nor do they say “Sure! We will look into that…“.

When asked for a feature enhancement, most clients are asking if it can be done. If it can – accommodate. If it can’t – politely explain why not and provide some new options.

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2 Responses to “When Quality Service Affects Quality Software”

  1. Justin Deltener on August 27th, 2007 7:38 am

    Playing both roles can really be a challenge. Exactly as you put it; How can I be flexible yet still maintain integrity and create something I can really be proud of. Luckily you can mold the client over time as trust is validated so that being very up front and honest will be interpreted just as respectfully as an artful ass kissing.

  2. Jason Gibb on August 27th, 2007 8:29 am

    Sometimes it’s all in how you present your argument against a certain feature or request. I think your lasagna example is spot on. Unless you have forged a rock-solid relationship of trust with a client, you can’t just tell them their idea sucks. But you can explain the issues and provide alternatives. Most clients will truly appreciate your honesty and flexibility.

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