Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mechanics and the Myth of the Satisfied Client

It’s always a true in software development that we try to satisfy clients believing that they’re always right and they always know what they want. Further, we tend to think on them like almighty goddess with unlimited decision powers. But let’s think it twice, why should we be more committed to customer satisfaction than other service industries?
Let’s take this example from real life, my real life at least. I took my car to the car shop because the front wheels were making some funny noise whenever I slammed on the brakes. The mechanic when below the car, took a look and found nothing. I insisted in that the car was making noises when I drove it, the mechanic said let’s take it for a test ride. I drove the car, slammed on the breaks and again nothing: no noises, no breaks failure no nothing. The mechanics just smiled to me and charge me a no cheap fee for his time.
As a customer, what was my problem? Did my car really have a problem? It was a random not easily reproducible bug? Honestly, I don’t know, but I’m sure that I’m not crazy and the noise was there. So the point is, does the client have enough knowledge to diagnose problems? More to the point, what approach the mechanic used to try to pin down the problem with my car? No big up front requirements, the mechanic uses and iterative approach for diagnosing, fixing is incremental and many times mechanics have to inspect and adapt their work as they move.
Lastly, mechanics usually don’t tell us how much they’ll charge us for their services; they complete the work and then ask for payment. Most of the time your car is fixed and you paid without questions. What a wonderful life mechanics have, don’t you think? Something that we can copy?

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