Client Satisfaction and Resources
I've heard the argument "it takes Resources to provide good Client Satisfaction" and I simply have to disagree. Great client satisfaction has to come first, and the resources will follow. I also believe that companies who take this stance will often re-use those resources to provide even better client satisfaction.
When most people think about making their clients happy, they think about bargains. A bargain is simply the same services at a reduced price. And that certainly is one factor in making clients happy, since who doesn't like saving money? Sadly, I think bargains are the first to come mind because they are so easy compared to the alternatives. "I'll just slash my prices and more clients will come." However there are other ways to provide value and make clients happier without taking a hit on price.
Some clients heavily prefer the quality of the service or product. If I'm in the market for a high-end acoustical guitar, I'm going to favor the quality of a guitar over the one with the best deal. This resonates strongly with software in the form design and often overlooked practices such as automated testing.
Listening and Solving the Real Problem
One of the most effective strategies I've found is: listen to the client and focus on solving the problem at hand. When I say "listen", I don't mean "hear the sounds coming from their mouth", I mean really listen to both what they are saying, and what they aren't. There are many clients out there who will pass on a bargain if it only partially solves their problem. I constantly hear stories from both other developers and clients about scenarios where developers ignored the problem at hand, and decided to solve a different one. They may work on an optimization issue when performance is acceptable, or decide to roll the work into an open source project when a specific and custom solution is really what's needed. Or build an exquisitely elegant design, that even I admire, yet it does not do what is requested.
This is not just applied to software. A friend of mine owns a couple local pizza and ice-cream parlors and he shared his experience: The best way to help an upset customer is simply to listen to them. Most of the time they're not wanting their money back or a coupon. They just want to know that their voice was heard and respected.
I always laugh at how appropriate this SNL clip is:
Sometimes clients just want a memory to cherish. A couple years back, my wife and I decided to go to a Ruth's Chris Steak House and we were amazed at the dining experience. It was certainly one we won't forget. When we were in Portland, we also had a fantastic night at the City Grill on the 30th floor.
In software, that's exactly the purpose field user experience design. Certain applications thrive by continuing to improve their interface to be as simple and effective as possible. Other applications thrive by removing options and choices from their customer base. A recent post by Scott Adams specifically addresses this point.
None of these points take significant resources to do well, and each of these can be improved with additional resources. Please share any successes or failures you've found. I'd love to hear them.
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