Visibility and Impact on the Client Project

INSIGHT
Written by: Filipe Gorges Reuwsaat, a Senior Golang Engineer.
How do you know if you’re delivering what is expected of you?
When working directly with external remote customers, it can be difficult to build trust and manage expectations. All communication happens asynchronously and your interactions can sometimes feel like performing surgery over a walkie-talkie.
Provide the customer service you'd want to receive
This isn’t achieved through a strict set of rules, but by fostering a mindset that will help you navigate the waters of your new reality.

Consider for a moment if you paid a business to perform a task that should take a day, but a week goes by and you don't hear anything from them. How does that make you feel? What if, without the result from that service, you lose profit and have customer dissatisfaction? Even more frustrating, when you reach out to them, you find out they didn't even start servicing your request because they are blocked by a simple issue you could have offered a solution for within a 5 minute conversation!

We have all most likely experienced this before on some level and you probably didn’t return to that business again because of the poor customer service you received. After all, how can you trust them again in the future?
When working with remote customers, try imagining yourself as the company.
Always have a discussion with your client on -
What their expectations are in terms of deliverables (how do I know I solved your problem?)
Time-sensitivity (is this for today? Is this for next week?)
Priority (I'm already doing X, should I stop it in favor of Y?).

Try to imagine the process of the service in your head and come up with questions about edge cases. Ask all questions you think of even if you think the questions might not be applicable. Do not start working with unanswered questions and don't be afraid to ask for confirmation during the process. Which service would you prefer - someone that communicates effectively with you to make sure they get it right the first time, or someone that pretends they understand, unwilling to ask questions, only to underdeliver and waste your time?
Frequently update those who are waiting for your work
If the expectation was set that a task would take a work week to complete, send an update to your client on where you are with that task on Wednesday to let them know if everything is on track or if you feel that there are any unknowns that might delay the Friday delivery. This is also a great time to proactively ask around for people who can offer help to you if needed.

Tip:

If you're a software developer using GitHub, one fast/easy/cheap way of providing visibility on your progress is to open a Pull Request in Draft mode (you can select it on the little arrow next to the Create pull request button) immediately as you start working on the task, and commit all your work to your remote branch. This will both keep your work safe outside your PC, act as a flag that it's in a Work In Progress state, allow your colleagues to help you asynchronously by making early reviews, and let your (technical) clients check-up on you without having to ask you for status.
Reach out when you get blocked
You've spent 2 hours stuck on something. Your research and attempts have all led you to a dead end. You’re determined to find an answer because you're a professional. You feel this is your sole responsibility so you spend 3 more hours trying to find a solution. There is a better way! What matters for your client is that the delivery is made on time.Your deliverable won’t be any less effective merely because you had help. Everyone needs help sometimes. Reach out to your team as soon as possible. Ask for someone to pair up with you if that's what it takes to get you back on track.
Don't sell the product, sell the solution
Your client has problems they need to address and oftentimes they are “telling” you what solution they think they want, but it may actually not always be the best solution you know they need. How do you get them to take your advice? You can build trust with your client by taking a genuine interest in their business and what they are trying to achieve. Over time, this will allow you to propose better alternative solutions that fully address the client’s needs. This can be difficult to do when first starting on a new project so stay alert to the client’s strategy and pain points. Proactively ask questions to understand what their true goals and needs are in the long term. Build trust by meeting deadlines, following through with perfection on the small projects, and communicate effectively on a consistent basis.

Whenever in doubt on how to proceed or how people might perceive your work ethics, look at it from the perspective of one where you are on the receiving end of the service.

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