Dealing with stupid customers

As we found out yesterday there’s more that one way to deal with a customer you think is stupid.  And now matter how good or bad Cornhole was is irrelevant because he still had a customer he thought was stupid.  So whether you’re right or not isn’t important.  The bread lines are full of guys who were right.  So that’s evidently not what’ll keep you your job.  Good customer service is what’ll keep you your job.  And it’s not always easy to keep your temper in check.

I expect very little of my customers.  I know that most people know almost nothing about DBs so I don’t mind when they say something wrong, or when they ask what’s thought of as a stupid question.  What bothers me though is when they claim to not know anything about DBs but they don’t believe you when you answer their questions.  No, that doesn’t sound right to me.  This is a dangerous crossroad because your next statement can determine whether you go back to your desk after the meeting, or to HR.  Typically, what I do when they don’t believe something I say is I ask them what it is about it they’re having a hard time with.  So instead of getting into a pissing contest, just find out what they don’t like.  This way you can attack their problems one by one until they have no choice but to believe you.  I say that, but we all know those customers who refuse no matter what you say.  But by attacking their issues one by one you will quite often find that they didn’t understand what you were saying so they rejected it on the Big-Word Factor.  The Big-Word Factor has 2 sides and you never know which one it’s going to land on.  The first side is what we just discussed;  people discredit what you say because they don’t understand the big word you used.  And anything they haven’t heard of couldn’t possibly work.  The other side of that can do just as much damage.  This is when someone is so impressed with your big words that they blindly follow whatever you say.  I’ve seen this cause quite a few problems because a customer likes the sound of a word and it just gets them into trouble.  Clustering is one of those words.  More people implement clustering because it sounds cool and they don’t get what they really need.

So what do you do if the customer just insists that you don’t know what you’re doing?  Well at some point you’ve just gotta say, well it’s too bad you don’t understand what I’m talking about, but this is what we’re doing because I’m the DBA and you said you didn’t know anything about it.  So why would we do what you think is smart when you claim to have no knowledge on the topic and I do?  There’s a reason you let the brain surgeon (and not your husband or your kids) operate on your mother.  And I bet you don’t understand all the words they say either do you?  And a lot of people don’t realize this, but a really good IT guy studies just as much if not ultimately more than most doctors.  And we can experiment without any kinds of moral issues getting involved.

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