I recently had a client contact me out of the blue, asking for a copy of their documentation. This sort of request will generally set off alarm bells for me. My first thought is always, why do they want to go into areas that only "admins" need to access? Of course my initial reaction is to think a competitor is snooping around. In that light, I think that maybe I should say no in a friendly sort of way. Of course that's rubbish.
Remembering Whose Data This Is
In the first place, the client has every right to their data. In addition, denying access is not going to stop a client leaving you. So what should you do? I quickly rang the client to check they were happy with our service and asked if anything was wrong. What I found out was everything was fine but someone at a dinner party had mentioned "the cloud". It made them curious.
My first reaction was to start to create a proposal which was hugely expensive and not the right solution for this client. Then I rethought that solution and realized I had a better one, to give our client knowledge as a first step. I let them know we have a data center and can offer cloud services. She hadn't realized this. I hadn't realized she didn't know.
Knowledge is Wealth
That was when I saw that I had forgotten our most important service to our clients, sharing our own knowledge. I had lately been talking with a great deal of excitement about all our new services to my staff. But somehow in the midst of all of this, I forgot to talk to my clients. This conversation from a simple request reminded me that sharing what I know with my clients, including new services, is a big part of being the best at what we do.
Knowing this, I could help this client make smart decisions about what they wanted to do if they should migrate to the cloud. I pointed out that having the documentation on site is not always the best idea, something they were considering. These documents are valuable. Think of them as the keys to the kingdom. I suggested a password protected document to at least minimize the risk.
Looking Beyond the Billable Hours
I then spent the afternoon just visiting and chatting with clients. I also took the time to show the staff members a few tricks to make their job easier. I knew by the end of the day that these were good decisions and all of it was time well spent.
Sometimes we get caught up focusing on chargeable time. That is the easy part. But you also need to get in front of your clients and do things to help them at no cost. You need to be that consultant you claim to be, or someone else will come along who is. So the next time you get really busy, think about taking a break and visiting a client. It can reward you in so many ways.