It's all personal
February 27, 2004
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If you work your high-tech magic at the end of a phone
line, or deep in the heart of a large corporation, you can easily forget
that everything you do is directly important to some other person.
Sometimes we hide behind corporate bureaucracy or simple indifference,
but the truth is, all high-tech work is personal. All technology is meant
to be used by another human being and if you want to be successful in
your high-tech career, you must remember this.
Getting to know you
In my work, I am blessed with daily reminders of the personal nature of
my work. Instead of working in an office, I work in people’s homes,
home offices and small businesses. I don’t have any walls between
my work and myself. I actually get to meet my customers face to face.
I have direct knowledge of their needs and their frustrations. In my work,
it is difficult to not know what is going on. Many of you, though, don’t
have that luxury. You work in the cubicle world of corporate America where
you might have more than fifty people at a time under your care. If you
really want to know your clients, you have to take the time to dig a little
deeper. Most importantly, you have to take the time to listen.
My sister, Denise, runs a consultancy in the Palm Springs area and we
often compare notes about our clients and our work. As we were talking
one night, we came upon an important observation about our clients…they
like to talk to us. Often, when we are starting a service or training
call, the first 10 minutes or so are taken up with the usual pleasantries
and catching up. They are often interested in our lives and usually have
something to share from their own. More importantly, though, we both have
found that if we try to jump directly into working on the client’s
problem, the client can feel shortchanged. After long discussions, we
have come to the realization that this is an important part of our success.
Whether it is due to our mid-western upbringing or simply a function of
our personalities, we don’t mind listening to people and this allows
us a deeper relationship with our clients. This, then, leads to a longer
and more fulfilling business relationship.
To each his/her own
This might seem odd in the “go-go-go” world we live in, but
you need to spend some time with your clients. Not only will you learn
something about them, you may also discover ways to assist them in using
their technology. You need to resist the urge to “get down to work”
and take the time to connect to the people you serve.
Of course, each client is different. Some may want you to get straight
to business and you should accommodate them. When you see an opportunity
to talk, though, you should embrace it. It is a simple fact of high-tech
life that you often spend long periods of time waiting for the computer
to do something. Windows installs, backups and other tasks involve a lot
of waiting. This is a perfect time to strike up a conversation with your
client. I often use this time to provide a mini-Q&A session for the
client; answering any questions they might have.
Sometimes the conversation leans towards more personal issues. I am often
asked how I learned about computers. Most clients are amazed that I actually
have a BA degree in Theater, so this is usually a good conversation starter.
Perhaps we have a common, non-technology interest, like hiking, bird watching,
etc. Discussions like this can really help to fill the time when you would
be staring at a screen doing the technological equivalent of watching
Too much information
Of course, any discussion can sometimes lead into areas you would rather
not discuss. I have had clients talk about their upcoming divorces, health
problems and more. In these cases, you should be the soul of discretion.
While you are not bound by the same rules as a lawyer, it is best to observe
them anyway. Client information, personal or professional, should also
be considered confidential. Don’t share it with anyone. Your business
requires a large amount of trust. Clients invite you into their homes,
office and lives. If you break this trust, your professional relationship
will come crashing down about your ears.
As a high-tech worker it is important to remember that people, not just
technology, are your work. While it pays to be professional; in attire,
in scheduling, in billing; an important part of every high-tech career
is the personal touch you bring to the client. Whether you are dealing
with this client over the phone, in email or in person, you need to treat
him or her as you would like to be treated, opening up the avenue for
a personal connection.
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