Whether you work in support for in-house users or for external commercial customers the people you work for are your customers. Building a good relationship with them is vital to help you through your working day and to understand their needs.
I like to make relationships with my customers. I am on the road all day and do not have an office to go to, so it can be handy to have a selection of customers who are on site to whom I can turn when I have a need that is not covered by the equipment I carry in my car.
This can be anything from using a connected PC to get e-mail or look up part numbers to having somewhere warm where I can get a cup of tea. Not least of all, knowing where there is a friendly customer nearby when the need for a comfort break arises is very useful. Occasionally, if I am nearby and I am not too busy, I like to drop in on customers to see if everything is OK. It is surprising how often this leads to me dealing with a problem, and they seem to appreciate the proactive approach.
I made one such call this week. I hadn't seen this particular customer for over a year and decided that a visit was in order. I was also nearby and in dire need of a bathroom break so I turned off the main road and took the narrow country lane that leads to their premises. My cell phone rang as I drove down the lane. It was the customer I was about to visit. Somewhat surprised, I took the call. She asked me if I could call in sometime and look at her printer. Somewhat smugly I said "Would about five minutes be OK?"
It may be that I have been visiting some customers for too long, because it seems to be usual to arrive at a customer and be presented with a mug of tea and not be asked how I take it. I see this as a positive sign, the fact that some of them remember my name and my beverage preference means that they have a positive association.
The reaction of customers when I visit other areas is also interesting. Whenever one of my colleagues is not at work, their jobs come to me. With one of them I notice that the welcome is normally warmer than I am used to. There is another colleague for whom I cover whose customers seem a little terse at first. I suspect this means that their opinion of the person in question is similar to mine.
When working without a base to return to at the end of the day, it is important to have some safe havens dotted around the countryside. Some of them will allow me to leave parcels to be collected by couriers; others will receive parcels for me. Without making these relationships, my job would be very hard to do.