Did the customer mean Important, Urgent or both?

We had the wife of an important employee of an important client call us today and let the receptionist know that this was an emergency.  It was mid day Friday and they were leaving for 2 weeks vacation in the morning and the laptop they would use to connect to the company Citrix was set up with two profiles, the wife’s and the husbands.  The husbands profile would not connect to the internet ever since he installed a wireless headset.  Our engineers were very stressed about how to handle this because the persons house was a good 40 miles from the office and being this was a new client we were not sure if they expected to pay for us to go there and fix a private computer in a persons house.  They absolutely needed HIS program to connect. The wife had said it was an emergency so we spent some time finding the decision maker at our client and the answer was, “if he wants it fixed he will be responsible for the trip or for bringing it to you to fix it”.   But it was an Emergency right?  Of course they would want us to come out to fix it.  Of course they did not.  What the wife had really meant was it was an urgency because they were leaving the next day.  Once we said that he would have to bring it down or be responsible for a trip charge in order to get it fixed. The work around was clearly the better option for them.  The work around was simply to use her profile to connect to the internet and then he could get on the company Citrix.  Easy work around, no harm no foul and no need for 40 mile one way trip on the spur of the moment.

Some people might scoff at this as “oh sure the client wanted us to come to Cameron Park (40 miles) but it wasn’t important enough for THEM to actually make that trip”.  I say the real answer is communication.  The customer was sharing the need to have an answer quickly if a reasonable answer was to be found.  Our helpful guys heard this as “gotta have it fast” and translated it into fixed and fast into all costs, which came out to “Got to have it fast at all costs”.  The wife/customer was not out of bounds wanting to ask our guys to come to make the drive.  In her  mind if that’s what the expert said was the right thing to do then that’s what they are paid to do is make those kinds of decisions, they are the expert.  But once the decision was made to toss that effort back to the customer, the customer correctly made the decision that the trip wasn’t worth it.  Problem solved in the best way possible given the circumstances.

The greatest impediment to communication is the illusion that it is actually happening.  Make sure when you hear important or urgent that you don’t decide to hear important AND urgent.  It’s the easiest thing to do but it’s also the easiest thing to validate.  Make sure your client understands what you are hearing so they have an opportunity to confirm it.

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