Everyone Hates to Wait

It’s truly amazing the level of disconnect that occurs for some people when looking at their daily life versus their job responsibilities. For example, everyone hates to wait. Whether it’s waiting in line at the DMV or waiting on hold for customer service, waiting devalues your time. Yet how many people make conscious decisions in their jobs that leave others waiting?

This raises an important issue in IT. We want to provide the best customer experience possible, whether that client is internal or external. But, how do we shorten wait time in client services? There are at least four ways we can throw the client a bone when working projects:

  1. Provide frequent updates. Give the client regular updates on the project, even if there is little in the way of progress between them. The client is typically unaware of what you’re working on, and regular updates let the client know that they haven’t been forgotten. Some people fear becoming a nuisance with too-frequent updates, but this almost never happens. Clients would always prefer to have more information than less.
  2. Get the client involved. Simply finding something related to the project for the client to do can help reduce those feelings of waiting. This has the added bonus of increasing client ownership and buy-in on the project. It also brings the client closer to the inner-workings of the project, so they can see just what kind of progress is being made.
  3. Demonstrate progress visually. This is easier to do with some projects than with others. If you’re installing a web server, let the customer browse to a beta site. If you’re developing reports that pull from a client database, show a sample report. You can also use graphics, diagrams, photos and more, even when a project has little going on when it comes to the front end.
  4. Create appropriate project milestones. Whenever possible, break projects out into bit-sized milestones, and assign dates as appropriate. This gives the client a way to check on progress and assures them that everything is on schedule.
  5. Meet deadlines. When you set a deadline, meet it. If it’s looking like you’re not going to hit a deadline or miss a milestone, communicate that to the client sooner rather than later. A client would much rather hear “this project is going to take a few more days” than to go past the deadline and just sort of wonder where things left off.

Ultimately, there are two basic principles you need to master if you want to shorten wait time in client services: proper project management and effective communication. Project management lets you set milestones and measure progress, while communication is the means by which you give your customer a peek behind the curtain and let him know that everything is coming according to plan.