Building a good customer relationship can be tricky sometimes and it has many factors. What matters is the transparency and the trust. Being transparent, having a freely flowing discussion with all matters concerned helps build trust. Transparency means sharing also the fears and risks of the project.
I heard an inspiring keynote from Imre Gmelig Meijling at DrupalCamp Helsinki recently. Among other things, he spoke about creating good customer experience with Drupal projects through transparency, caring and good communication.
I have had some personal experience of projects that have gone extremely well because of great communication and mutual trust, and on the other hand there’s been projects that were quite stressful because the communication did not work. Meijling’s keynote speech was a wonderful reminder of how building a good customer experience affects the whole project including the developing team working on it. But what does it require from a developer?
According to Meijling, one way of gaining trust is to make the customer feel cared. If you care of the well-being of the customer, if you truly want to build more value, it will bear fruit. This also works the other way around: if the developers feel they’re actually doing something meaningful, they care. The sense of meaning and purpose brings a lot of satisfaction, and a satisfied employee is happier and more efficient.
I think it’s important to give developers some space to care. This happens naturally if people get invested into the projects. From my personal experience: if I feel like the project is my baby, I treat with love and fierceness like it actually would be my offspring. This can happen, if every team member actually knows the customer, the project and most importantly the reason behind it.
Some actions to care more:
- Meet the customers: get to know them.
- Get to know the project (for example code reviewing is one good practice resulting more aware people, more comments and thus communicating AND better quality code)
- If possible, keep the same people working on the project, so every team member knows the project bottom-up
- Documentation, well formatted code: easy to jump in, if there’s some inevitable team changes.
- Make the reasons, the targets clear. Not focusing only what is being made but more like why it’s done.
The three factors – trust, transparency and communication – link very tightly together. Transparency makes communication easier and builds more trust, trust makes the communication more natural and transparent. Good communication accelerates both trust and transparency.
And yeah, by the way, keeping all this in mind might help outside the work and customer meetings too.
Nelli Holopainen, Developer