OK, a lot of you have wondered just exactly what I am doing now.
I’ll try to explain, but that will take a lot of words – if you want the abbreviated version, “I take care of customers. Future and present”.
OK. If that’s all you want to know, you are free to leave. We validate parking.
Still here? Well, you must be someone in the same type position I am (or you are one of my bosses!)
So let’s start with my title, “Director of Customer Development”. It is VERY similar to my last title, “Director of Software Development”.
So what’s the big difference between those two things? Mostly, it is that I am just better at building relationships with people that I am at building software. Sure, I CAN build software – it takes a lot of effort on my part, because it isn’t what comes naturally to me.
Building relationships DOES come naturally to me though. Talking to people is easy for me. I love people, and always have. I have a wide variety of friends from every background you could imagine. I credit my entry into the Navy at an early age for this. I saw the world, met the people, and generally liked them.
I’m also fairly technical. Just how technical depends on the company I am with. I’ve been lucky to work with so many people that were so amazingly bright that a lot of that must have just rubbed off on me. But I can talk to customers on a fairly technical level, and what I don’t know, I admit (and then learn and share with my customer).
Nobody expects anyone to know everything – and I realize this – so saying “I don’t know” is easier for me than it is for a lot of people I know. Don’t make the mistake of trying to make shit up – if you don’t know, your customer WILL know you don’t know. Just be honest with your customer. That way you don’t have to remember lies, and you can sleep comfortably with both eyes closed.
Also, never talk poorly about your customer – not in public, or in private. I promise you that talking poorly about your customer is a path to failure. Even if the customer is demanding – they are still a customer. But don’t get me wrong – I’ve fired customers before. If they cross the line from being a pain to being abusive, or if they cost you more than the value they offer you – you need to be willing to cut them lose. Don’t cheat your customer, or allow them to cheat you. Be fair to one another – always. And demand that fairness.
Don;t promise your customer things you can’t deliver. For the relationship to work, you need to both share the same set of expectations.
So – what do I do?
I talk to customers. In a lot of ways. Twitter, our corporate blog, the phone, email and probably 6 different “touch points”.
I’m not is sales, or marketing. I don’t consider myself in “social media”. I just consider myself the “guy who talks to customers”. When that communication isn’t happening with your customer, you have a problem, and your relationship with them probably won’t last.
And if you’ve read this whole thing, it IS what I do. But it is also how you should treat the people you care for most in life. Your kids, your wife, and your parents.
Life is too short not to treat people well. And to demand the same from them.