February 18, 2005
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If you read anything by business guru Tom Peters (www.tompeters.com)
you will hear the term Professional Service Firm (PSF) over and over again.
This is what you and I do each and every day. Regardless of whether you
are working inside a large corporation or as a freelancer like myself,
you are your own PSF. At least, this is what Peters would like you (and
I) to believe. I think he is correct and I have said much the same in
I always try to think like a PSF and develop ways to increase my effectiveness
with my clients. One major part of building your PSF, and differentiating
yourself from others, is through the customer experience. As a consumer
yourself, it should seem obvious that how you provide your services, as
well as the services you provide, are the major factor in customer satisfaction.
What “experience” are you providing for your clients and how
is it improving your relationship, and profitability, with those clients.
A good friend
When I first started reading Peter’s books on PSFs, I had to do
some hard thinking about what kind of experience I was giving my users.
I started by dissecting each part of my work and the impression is leaves
with my clients. The best description I have been able to arrive at is
this – a consulting call from me is like having a good friend (albeit
a highly knowledgeable one) visit to help you with your computer. Instead
of some kitschy uniform like “The Geek Squad” (http://www.geeksquad.com/)
or typical corporate attire, I just try to be me.
My attire for consulting calls can best be called friendly/casual. I usually
dress with a nice shirt, blue jeans, sneakers and certainly, no tie. I
am always neat and clean (barring an occasional major coffee accident
which has happened only once), but I am certainly not spit-and-polish
corporate office material. I bring my equipment in a nice rolling briefcase
and do my best to keep mud off the client’s floor.
Listen, listen, listen….then listen some more
The next part of the experience, beyond the first impression, is that
of caring. This isn’t hard for me, as I do care greatly about my
clients, both in general and in their “computer life”, as
I call it. One way I show this is by simply listening. My clients often
have information they want to share with me before we actually get started.
Sometimes this bears on their problems and sometimes not. Regardless,
it is my job to listen and understand their issues. As you probably already
know, this isn’t easy. Sometimes we want to jump right in and get
to work, but I can guarantee you that listening is the best way to start
any call. I decided at the beginning of this year to work even more on
my listening skills. While it may be difficult, it is one of the best
ways to improve your client’s experience.
The little things
Take some time to think about the small, but important, ways you can improve
your client’s experience. If you are working on computer hardware,
do you bring a little vacuum to capture all the dust bunnies that fly
out when you open the case? Could you bring more printed materials to
“leave behind” so the client can review them later? In my
case, I recently wrote a quick primer on CD-R backups and I now add a
web bookmark in client’s web browsers. Can you bring your own coaster,
so your water, coffee or soda can isn’t dripping on their expensive,
mahogany desk? Can you find some way to put a smile on your face (and
your client’s), even when the day, and your mood, is gloomy? Can
you provide loaner computers when their computer requires more extensive
service? Can you maintain your vehicle properly so that it doesn’t
drop oil on their driveway?
As you can see, there are thousands of ways to help improve the client’s
experience, some only tangentially related to the work at hand. If you
want to build a great high-tech career you have to on the lookout for
ways, big and small, to make a difference. Ways that make it a pleasant
experience to work with you both personally and professionally.
by Tom Peters -- from Amazon.com
Available from CafePress.com