When you go shopping at a department store, depending on which one you choose, you could be in for any of a number of different experiences. You might walk in and find a reasonable selection of clothing and other items for reasonable, mid-range prices. Someone might be out on the floor, re-stocking inventory or cleaning up the dressing rooms while you shop, and offering you the occasional assistance when you have questions. You let yourself into a dressing room, which may or may not have the contents of its prior occupant still hanging from the pegs. You collect your purchases when you are done, and you go to the cash register to pay and leave.
In the alternative, you might arrive at the store to an offer of champagne or bottled water. A customer service representative might show you to a plush dressing room, where you wait while a variety of different outfits are brought for your perusal and consideration. The rejections are quickly whisked away, alternatives offered, and your chosen purchases are carefully bundled and either walked to your car or set aside until you return from the rest of your shopping excursion.
Of the two, if price were not an issue, which experience would you rather have? Now, which experience are you willing to give your employer or your clients?
When working in IT, no one expects you to serve up your solutions with champagne and strawberries. However, there are things you can do to enhance your services and become that much more valuable to your clients and your employer. It all starts with simply listening.
For example, as an SAP consultant, you should pay close attention to your clients’ desires when it comes to functionality and implementation. Have they indicated more than once that they would like their human resources team to be able to have certain capabilities that you know can be added via customization or development of a simple ABAP program? Is there a process they are having a hard time mapping about which you could offer some outside-of-the-box thinking? As you gain more and more experience, such recommendations will be more and more valued.
Adding value is exceptionally important in the IT industry today. Keep in mind the trend towards outsourcing and off-shoring. Remember: you cannot afford to compete on price. Instead, you must offer something extra to your clients that they cannot get from an overseas IT company charging rock-bottom rates. Knowing your product inside and out, and being able to offer innovative solutions that enhance your clients’ user experiences will keep you in clients when less skilled, less attentive consultants are struggling.
The same principles apply to those hired to maintain SAP systems. Have you familiarized yourself with your underlying business yet? If so, can you identify three ways that you can optimize your existing SAP system to help your company be more productive and more profitable? Rather than zoning out during company meetings, are you paying close attention to areas for improvement and offering solutions? When you perform a bug fix, do you just temporarily solve the problem or do you take extra steps needed to ensure it doesn’t happen again, whether that means educating your staff or implementing systems to safeguard against bugs in the future?
Keep in mind that this kind of advanced customer service needs to be provided with caution. You must listen closely to your client to avoid implementing superfluous functions and features that they end up not needing. If you are providing value, you can request compensation for what you provide. If you are just adding features you think are helpful but that your client did not express a desire for, then you run the risk of wasting your time on something you cannot recoup. In short, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile, but make sure that you are taking calculated risks that are likely to pay off. You can accomplish this feat by paying close attention to your clients’ or employer’s needs and offering them viable solutions without them having to ask.
Image courtesy of David Singleton via creative commons