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Is it 'OK to say NO' to customers?
I recall one of my incidents at work when I was new to my work. I was working with Infosys and was directly responsible for a project. My work on a daily basis involved discussing the status at the end of the day with the direct client. The project was short and sweet and I was the lone developer and project manager on the project. I knew the client always had a testing team but somehow I ended up doing the testing as well because the client said so.
For the 8 months I was on the project, I was not able to differentiate between days and nights. The day started with me reviewing the project plan, then coding and then research and then coding and testing and this continued till the end of the day when I put in the hours in the tracker and sent off the effort trackers and work status xls, the defect fix xls and so on to the client. Then the call would start and then there would be more requests. And it would already be 9 PM by then!
The client would come online at 9 PM Indian time and would ask me to do a quick fix. I never could say NO. I ended up fixing it and it always took far longer than 'quick' fix. And then the client would ask me to do other stuff which I would not find time to do in the day so would be slogging in the weekend to fix it. This continued till the project was over. And at the end, I realised, I could have surely managed the client expectations better.
This might be a case with many software engineers joining new into the corporate world but as seasoned professionals we face this everyday with clients coming in with various demands and requests, which are difficult to meet. Imagine servicing a fixed price project with a need for customization cropping up in the middle without extension of timeline. Imagine a client asking for something which you have never done with a money back guarantee or imagine a client asking your developer to work on weekends for the next 4 months. Imagine a client asking for PHP website implementation when you know Sharepoint would best fit in the scenario - And client coming back to you after 3 months and saying to go ahead with Sharepoint when 3 months of work has been put in without payment and so on. Demands can be very unreasonable at times.
Business thrives because of its people and because of its work ethics and metholodologies. If you create an organisation which will agree to everything the customer says, you will most likely land up with too many angry customers because with limited resources, you would be juggling to delight everybody while in reality you would not be satisfying anybody. In situations which pose a question, it is prudent to buy time and weigh on your pros and cons and then get back to the client if you can or can NOT work on it in the way he wants with solid reasons why. That instills greater confidence in the client over your capabilities. And most of the times, 8 in 10 - your customer would understand your situation and appreciate you being upfront in making the suggestion. Rest 2 would anyways have gruntled and asked for even more if you had agreed to their first seemingly impossible request.
What do you think?
Is it acceptable to Say No to clients?