Friday, July 24, 2009

When You Can't Do What the Customer Asks...

At the hardware store today:

Yours truly: Could you please copy this key?

Counterperson - after examining key and looking at a key blank: See how this key doesn't have the same thickness as this blank?

Hmmm...I didn't specifically ask him to use that particular blank, just to duplicate the key. Is he going to need to alter that blank, or use some other blank, or even order a new blank?

Yours truly: How can you duplicate the key I just gave you?

Counterperson: That's what I'm trying to tell you...this key doesn't fit this blank.

Irritation factor growing...I'm not asking him specifically about that blank. All I give a blast about is his duplicating the key, something I've never had an issue with each time I've visited a hardware store.

Yours truly: Can you duplicate that key?

Counterperson: This blank won't fit!

Yours truly: Can you duplicate that key - yes or no?

Counterperson: No.

Yours truly, taking the key from his outstretched and open hand: Thank you - have a good day.

Exit stage right.

For any service folks who may be reading this:

Pretty much by definition, you know much more than your customer about the situation. Your customer generally does not give a rat's whisker about the technical details of the job. The requested results either happen or they don't.

If you launch into a complex explanation without saying "Yes" or "No," I'm going to assume that the situation is negotiable provided that the issues you explain can be dealt with. And I'm likely to think of a couple of ways to handle those issues. We Aspies tend to think outside the box. (Some NTs have been known to do the same - stranger things have happened. :-})

Could your customer be mistaken about what's practicable? Quite possibly - see above. You know the situation better than s/he - even if s/he does understand the jargon specialized terminology you use to describe the matter (which isn't always the case).

If the situation is non-negotiable, please say that from the beginning and save us both a bit of time, energy and possibly stomach lining. Once you've made the situation clear, which shouldn't take more than a few words, feel free to launch into your explanation if it's called for.

(Similarly, if you want to suggest an alternative, feel free to do that - after telling the customer that his/her first choice is not possible for whatever reason. Then, s/he will know why you're suggesting the second choice and may be in a better mind to focus on it.)

What do you think?

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