The client is always right… right? But what about situations where your client can be wrong? Client service in the data center world must be based on providing the client unbiased, honest information, you cannot simply be a “yes-person” because you are the service provider.
So how do you get to a place where both parties can push back in a productive working relationship?
A two-way street
Trust is a two-way street that removes any doubt and second-guessing prevalent in most partnerships. The client needs to trust that the information they are receiving from their partner is the best solution for their circumstances, it is fairly-priced with no ulterior motives behind the offering. The partner needs to trust that the client won’t take the proposal that they invested time and resources to put together and get competitive bids against it.
Like any other relationship, there will be a “get to know you” phase. This is typically accomplished through a few initial projects. This gives the client an opportunity to see how the partner operates through the entire process of a project. Clients want to learn are response times, how easy their partner is to work with, how they deal with changes or problems, and the quality of work. The partner also wants to do their own evaluation of the client. Remember, this relationship goes both ways.
The partner will be more willing to provide honest consultation and not simply give the client what they are asking for. A good partner should have a wealth of knowledge about their industry and best practices. The partner won’t be afraid to tell the client that what they may be asking for may not work or isn’t the best solution. The client can now openly receive this feedback and not feel like they are being taken advantage of or mislead. There will be some hard times and disagreements. But if trust remains at the foundation of the partnership, the client and partner will be able to easily overcome these moments.
Here are a couple of real-world examples that we have experienced that illustrate the huge benefits of focusing on building trust with our clients.
Real-time decision making
We were in the middle of a six month infrastructure build-out for a hosting company. The project was going great and we were ahead of schedule. We were very intentional about building a great trust-based relationship by providing daily communication and sending out periodic pictures showing the quality of our work. However, the client had an extremely urgent need arise that required adding infrastructure to an existing area of their data center.
To meet the aggressive deadlines, the work needed to begin immediately. The client had enough trust that they gave our team a green light to do whatever was necessary to get this infrastructure in place within the given timeline. We had enough trust that we completed this work without a purchase order in hand. Both the customer and our team had an opportunity to be successful and acted with the best interest of the relationship in mind.
Presenting the right option
In another case, we were building out colocation space and preparing to migrate a healthcare client’s equipment from an existing site. The client wanted a structured cabling solution but also wanted minimal downtime during the migration. And the client’s cabinets were migrating fully populated.
Our solution was to go with overhead patching racks hanging from the ladder rack. Our dilemma was that there were no overhead supports in place to install ladder rack. We had two options, install an overhead strut grid that the ladder rack could support from or build temporary support that could hold the ladder rack until the client’s cabinets arrived.
The strut grid option was vastly more expensive than the temporary support option, although both achieved the same goal. At this point, we had the opportunity to only present the first option which would ultimately lead to more revenue and profit on this project. But we were approaching this decision based on having the best interest of the client in mind. We informed the client of the strut grid option, but also let them know that we had a better, more inexpensive, option that would work for their solution. The result of this was the growth of trust in our relationship which will lead to many more opportunities to work together in the future.
The benefits of good client service are a harmonious ecosystem of two parties equally benefiting from each other. As soon as trust is compromised, the entire relationship crumbles. If you can establish this type of partnership it will truly be the reason clients will continue to work with you again and again.