Work at the speed of your customers

working santa comic

There is a concept called Pacing and the idea is that you want to work at the speed that your clients need you. This can be challenging to do.

I learned this in a LinkedIn training course I am watching. The speaker gave an example that a waitress in an airport asked her how much time before her flight. She promised to help her get fed and not worry about the time. Great service!

One of the challenging things in many jobs is the client’s sense of urgency. Of course, you want to be as efficient as possible, but some things take time to fix. In those cases, I immediately set expectations when I believe it isn’t a quick fix. I say something like “This happened before and it took 30 minutes to fix. Is now a good time or later?” Then I let the client decide how they want to be helped.

When you are transparent with your clients generally they appreciate that. Some people don’t care to know the details and if that is the case, then you just work on the issue until it is fixed. One client asked me to do something that I estimated would take the rest of the day and when I told her this would take a lot of time to do, she was unhappy and left. She came back hours later and I was still working on her request. She was frustrated and thought she could do it faster so she told me to give her the computer and let her do what I was doing. I said sure and left. It turns out the next day that she asked another IT person why she was having problems and what she did, and the other IT person said that she had no choice but to wait and that is what I was doing in that process. There are times that the client has to learn the hard way that some things take time.

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Now, of course, you try to find ways to fix and proactively take care of issues. I love finding a solution that fixes the issue before it becomes a problem. Not everyone in IT cares to work that way. Many IT people believe that without letting problems occur, they can’t show their value and be the “hero” by fixing them. This is just ego and nonsense. If you know there is going to be a problem and fail to act to fix it, it is lazy and irresponsible.

However, this is a very common method of IT management. I have had the unfortunate experience of managers not believing me when I say there is going to be a problem and we need to buy a new server to fix it. I believe I shared this story before but in one company I told my manager there was a problem and he disagreed. He went on vacation and I knew that system was going to fail. I talked to his manager and got the new server approved. I set it up and the next day the system failed. If that server wasn’t set up, that company and all of its branches would not have been able to work. It would have been a major major outage. When he came back from vacation he said that he learned that I got approval to buy the system and that I fixed the issue. He didn’t thank me, I think he was frustrated that what I said would happen happened.

In our jobs, we need to find ways to work at the speed that our clients need us. When we go too fast or too slow, we aren’t giving people the support they need.

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