My wife and I go through this every December. She starts asking for my wish list – What do I want for Christmas1 THIS year? – around Thanksgiving, or when she’s giving me her wish list. She has always been this way – providing a wish list significantly reduces the likelihood she gets a surprise gift and reduces the likelihood I spend Christmas night on the couch. (It’s called “risk management”.)
It’s not the same as getting a set of project requirements from a business client, of course. In fact, my wife’s wish list is far superior to most requirements definitions I’ve encountered. It’s clearly written, well-organized, and while sometimes lengthy, prioritized. She doesn’t expect to get everything in her list, so there is a slight element of surprise (but if there is a surprise, it had better be a good one).
She’s very specific about what she wants. The brand name, size, style, color, price range, where to buy, etc., are all included. No back-and-forth is necessary. My goal, therefore, is to ensure my wife’s satisfaction, at a minimum.
However, I like to go it one better. If my wife’s elated, she’s not just giving me a kiss or a hug. She’s showing off what she just got for Christmas to relatives and friends. That minimizes the chance she’ll be “switching vendors” any time soon. Never take anyone for granted. More customers – and spouses, I suppose – leave because they’ve been taken for granted than leave because they’ve been injured.
My main objective with my business clients is similar: make them so happy that they’re telling other individuals at other companies how happy they are with the service I provide. I want that kind of client – one who brings in business for me.
Of course, it’s a two-way street – this business of making clients excited to see me because I’m giving them what they want and what they need. I have no problem delighting my clients if they make their expectations, goals, and objectives clear from the outset. I’m not in business if I’m giving people what they don’t want but I can’t give them what they want if they don’t know what they want.
NEXT: How to help clients understand what they want.
1 And my birthday, since it’s only a couple of days after Christmas.