Many snappy returns
Some weeks ago I played table tennis , or ping-pong as North American residents know it, for the first time in many years. The occasion was brought about by a comprehensive power failure in the building I work in. The UPS held up for a half hour or so, giving our ops mob just enough time to notify users and shutdown servers gracefully. That done, all we could do was to wait for the guys at the power company to do their thing.
Deprive a bunch of IT folks of their computers and they’ll soon start inventing other means of entertainment. Sure enough, within minutes someone suggested improvised table tennis, to be played on the lunch room table with CD cases as racquets and printer toner cartons, lined up end-to-end, serving as a rather wide net. We played several rounds of single-point games, with the loser handing the CD case to the first person on the queue (by this time a large queue had formed since no one had anything better to do).
Whilst engaged in a particular long rally against a worthy opponent from helpdesk, it occurred to me that table tennis rallies are a bit like dealing with clients. Allow me to explain: the aim of the game – table tennis, not consulting (although some practitioners may consider the latter a game as well) – is to lob or smash or return the ball in any way to the other court as snappily as one’s ability permits.
“And what does this have to do with consultants dealing with clients?”, I hear you ask.
Well, consultants are generally engaged to provide a service in return for which they are paid, often by the hour or some multiple thereof. Given that consultants bill by time, it behooves them to respond to all client queries in a timely manner.
If you are a consultant, your clients should never be left wondering about when they might expect a response from you. If there’s any waiting to be done, be sure it’s you who is doing the waiting. Snappy, accurate responses to client queries are of paramount importance. As in the case of table tennis, the ball should as far as possible be in their court, not yours.