Great customers can make you good

Just wrapped up one of our best weeks ever, and in the afterglow I have been wondering: “Why?”  I think the answer is we have some really great customers.  And by great I actually don’t mean a salesperson’s view of a great customer–willing to pay too much and order too many; nor an accountants view–pays up front; nor even a customer service reps view–never complains and rates us high. No, a great customer is one who makes you work hard, who challenges your capabilities, and makes you strive for excellence.  A great customer also understands win-win, so while they are cracking the whip with one hand they are providing the information, the specs, the quick feedback to help you get the job done / product shipped or whatever.  A great customer will never tell you that you s__k when you are doing well, not will they tell you all is fine when you s___w up.  A great customer will insist that you improve your schedule, but then work with you to make it so.

Had a few great customer experiences this week.  We had a grueling three hour kickoff meeting for a production test firmware project, with a customer who is trying to roll out a  consumer electronics product for Christmas.  We signed up for a really challenging schedule (and are working the weekend on it) but our customer is supporting us in every way possible: providing all the data we need quickly; answering our myriad get-started questions, of which some may fall in the stupid category; explaining their reasoning behind the spec instead of just saying “go read it”; and the like.  We’ve gotten a running start and maybe even will be ahead of an extremely tight schedule.

Another great customer kicked our butt this week.  Their clean-tech program is behind schedule and we are the program managers.  We can argue til we’re blue in the face that it’s not our fault (and perhaps it isn’t) but our customer can, and should remind us in the most vigorous wording possible that behind schedule is a BAD thing.  And as program managers we need to accept  responsibility and more importantly, do whatever we can to fix.  We have no magic wand nor time warping technology, but we did work out a compromise solution together to speed up the next phase.

Of course, I can’t deny that I  appreciate customers who pay on time , but  I also appreciate it when they help make us a better company.

Chuck

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