Don’t Just Give Your Customers What They Want

May 15, 2015 Appirio

By Brian Wenzl

During a recent sprint review, I told a project sponsor in no uncertain terms, “If I give you what you’re asking for, you’ll hate me for it.” You may find it hard to believe, but it went over well.

At Appirio, we talk extensively about being a tour guide, not a taxi driver. But what we don’t always emphasize — because it’s hard, and can be uncomfortable — is that an important part of being a tour guide is saying “no.” You always want a happy customer, and it’s easy to think that the way to ensure that is to give them everything they ask for. Hey, you say to yourself, We’re under budget. We have time. The customer wants this. Let’s do it. And I’ve learned the hard way —  that can be a crucial misstep. You’re doing your customer a disservice if you don’t ask these 2 questions: Does this make sense? Is there a better way to do it?

Granted, I’d never use a phrase like “If I give you what you’re asking for, you’ll hate me for it” during the first week of a project. But my goal from day one is to establish credibility, so that the customer isn’t just asking us to build things, but asking us how to build things. By the middle of a project, if our team has done its job, we should be able to have an open conversation. If we think something is a bad idea, or the wrong way to solve the problem, we should say no, and we should be able to say it without dancing around it.

Going back to my recent sprint review, the conversation went like this:

“If I give you what you’re asking for, you’ll hate me for it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the tool is certainly capable of supporting that, and we could build it for you. We have enough time, and probably the budget for it. But there’s a better way to achieve it in Salesforce. Let’s write a user story about that so we can make sure we heard you, and then the team will put something together. We can show you a rough draft in the next few days. If you like what you see, we’ll shine it up and get it production-ready. If not, we can do it the way you described, and we won’t have lost much time.”

In other words: I hear you. I understand. I don’t think the specific approach you’re asking for is the best one, and I want you to have what you really want. Trust us. Let us show you what it looks like if you optimize for Salesforce instead of thinking in terms of the tools you’re used to.

One of the reason our customers choose Appirio is because we’re the best at implementing Salesforce. It’s why I joined Appirio in the first place; I wanted to build sophisticated, complex solutions for big customers. And unless your customer is already a Salesforce expert, you can’t build them the really cool stuff if you don’t challenge them to think beyond Salesforce as “fancy Excel” or “Siebel Plus.” Because ultimately, if you want a happy customer, saying no is as important as saying yes.

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