How do you know you are getting it right with your customer?
How do you know when you are “getting it right” with your customer?
I have dealt with customers as both Test Manager and Project Manager for some years now and I used to worry about whether I was “getting it right”. I came to the conclusion some time ago that if you aren’t getting complaints and your management are not getting complaints about how you work with them, you must be doing alright. Here is a little story about something that happened this week that made me feel really good about my relationship with the current customer.
I started on this project 3.5 years ago and the Test Group relationship with the customer was one of the worst I have ever come across. They didn’t trust us, accused us of lying, hiding facts and the customer meetings I had were extremely difficult. I had to work really hard to improve that relationship, which I think I managed to do. One of the things I did which helped was to instigate a weekly bug review with the customer. At that bug review, we review all the bugs that have been raised in the week (from System Test and Live) and all the bugs that have changed to a terminal state (i.e. closed or set to “not a fault”). The purpose of this meeting was to make sure we all agreed whether it is a bug, that the severity is correct and the schedule for fixing is reasonable. This meeting has been running for just under 3 years and has been very successful in improving openness and mutual understanding.
One of the things that happens to us in software development is that a fix or enhancement can break something else or that a bug re-appears for whatever reason. The UAT Manager at these meetings christened such bugs as coming from the “Change Fairy”. A number of bugs over the years have been classified as having occurred due to the Change Fairy.
This week we held a “Celebration of Success” dinner which was a dinner for a number of the project team, customer and suppliers, about 100 people in all. It was a posh do, dinner jackets, very formal. After we all had eaten, there were presentations to a few people and speeches. The UAT Manager presented to me a “Change Fairy”. This was something he had made himself out of bits he had got from an old clock, a fairy that he had put on some wings, put into a cage and put on a plaque with the motto “Change Fairy – Do not Release”.
I think this shows how much our relationship has improved and is now very good, that a customer who had totally distrusted us can now pull a comical stunt like that at a public function. I was struck dumb and so pleased.
Yes, I think I am “getting it right” with this customer.