Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm in love!

Yes, that's right. I'm in love. Oh, I've known it for some time, but I don't think I was ready to admit it. So, here I am, ready to say it to the world.

I love my customers.

OK, you may be thinking that I've lost my mind. Or, you may be wondering what the big deal is. After all, aren't we supposed to love our customers? Of course we are. But do we?

All right, let me explain.

You see, I'm privileged to work in a truly meaningful industry. As a software vendor to Home Health and Hospice providers, I have a chance to impact clinicians who are doing deeply important work. The patients my customers serve are among the sickest and most vulnerable among us. They are often faced with end of life illnesses or chronic diseases.

The choices my team and I make impact whether a clinician stumbles through a maze of screens and widgets, or seamlessly uses technology to care for a patient. My customers are real to me and to my team. When we start a project, we think of the customers that will benefit. I don't mean personas. I mean real people with real names. As we solicit input, we talk to them, share our thoughts with them, and listen to their feedback. We treat them as first-class team members - people who know what they need to get done and why.

Again, I know this isn't exactly earth-shattering. But the affection my team and I have for our customers matters. It's what drives us to spend the time and energy to get a feature from "useful" to "delightful." Affection wasn't obtained overnight. It has been cultivated through reaching out to and building relationships with our customers.

This effort pays off. I often stop by the desk of someone working late and ask them what is going on. And more often then not, the response is something like "I spoke to Sally of such and such Hospice, and she had this great feedback I wanted to mock up for the developers to get into the next sprint." You see, a User Story can wait until the next day. Helping Sally happens now.

I hope my customers know how much I care for them, and respect what they do. When things go bump in the night, sure they get frustrated and sometimes even angry. But so far, after all these years and the occasional setback, they have always trusted that I care about them and their patients. At the end of a sometimes long call, they tell me that they know my team will do whatever is necessary to allow them to do what matters: care for patients.

And when they are delighted by the software or service provided, they are equally eager to share. I guess what it comes down to is that after we look at markets and segments, personas and users, eventually you have to realize that on the other side of every decision you make is a real person.

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