Gather Information Regularly
As suggested earlier, you can add your own questions to those listed in this chapter. By having a list of questions to work from, you’ll bring consistency to your information-gathering efforts and in the process generate more useful information.
But don’t confine your information gathering to situations in which you are addressing specific problems. Periodically, supplement problem-specific sessions with general information-gathering meetings. These meetings should be for the sole purpose of improving your understanding of your customers and their work. The more you learn, the more proficient you’ll be at understanding current expectations and anticipating future expectations. In the process, you’ll build rapport that will help you and your customers better meet each other’s expectations over the long term.
These meetings provide the opportunity to learn more about your customers than you can reasonably learn in the midst of a specific problem-solving situation. After all, when someone calls the help desk in a state of panic, it’s probably not the best time to ask, “What factors affect your priorities, make you less efficient than you like, and make it difficult to meet your deadlines?” Do so, and you’ll find that the answer, in one word, is “You!”