Tips for managing technical people – Be nice to the customer
12 May 2015, by Zoe Cunningham
The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Galvanizing the Geeks – Tips for Managing Technical People”. You can buy the full book on my website, here.
A good relationship with the customer is absolutely key to delivering a good service – and, as it’s the customer who is judging your outputs, you need them to be involved in setting the goals that define what success looks like.
To do this, you want to avoid your team developing a combative relationship with external decision-makers. If the customer agrees with every suggestion they make or is happy to be uncritical of technical decisions, there will be peace. But if the customer doesn’t effectively communicate the constraints they’re working to and passes on ultimatums as a result, they are likely to lose the team’s respect and any chance of a solution-focused discussion. Instead, it’s likely that the team will try to work out how to impose the plan that they already intended to implement.
The problem here is that your team are guardians of expertise that the customers don’t have. And because their focus isn’t on communication, they assume that if the customer wants something different they must just be stupid or pig-headed.
It’s therefore important to train your technical staff to think about helping the customer –to think “They’re so inexperienced they think putting it on one server is a good idea. They need our help to not make the wrong decision” – rather than reacting against a customer ultimatum. But without training them to think in this way, you can’t assume that your team will immediately understand good customer relations the way you do.
Tags: galvanizing the geeks