Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Would You Like Fries with That Sir?

Have you ever been to the golden arches and been asked if you'd like fries with your meal? It's considered good service to anticipate your customer's needs. You'll note though that they don't generally ask if you'll be needing ketchup with those fries you just ordered. That's because the ketchup is free and it will serve them well if you forget to ask for it. Now I suppose some will argue that nothing is free and that even if you don't get the ketchup you'll have paid for it anyway, but I digress as I am so often inclined to do...

The essential point here is how best to offer good service to your customers. Of course customer is a misnomer for the folks who consume our relatively inexpensive software at no up front cost. I like the term client because there isn't an associated connotation of money changing hands. One of the best ways to provide good service for your clients is to be helpful and answer their questions. The newsgroup is the front line for this service. At Eclipse it is a resource that is well exploited by the clients. Unfortunately, the service providers are often overwhelmed by the volume and are in short supply. I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to service their newsgroups with my fanatic zeal, but all too many newsgroups are sadly lacking in responsiveness, and that kind of saddens me.

Mostly I only answer newsgroup questions but on some rare occasions I do feel the need to ask a question. That was the case on Sunday. Two days later the question languishes and I feel neglected. Of course I take everything very personally, so I feel as if my question was somehow not worthy of an answer. I suppose it wouldn't have been so bad if no other questions were answered, but other questions that came after mine were answered. I feel like those other people jumped the queue. I hate it when people don't wait their turn!

I wanted to remind others in the community hoping to make their projects successful that I believe EMF's success and the growth of the modeling community has been helped to a great extent by paying very close attention to the newsgroup. That's where I find out what problems people are having with EMF and what kinds of problems they are trying to solve using EMF. It's a valuable source of information and is the best way to keep your finger on the pulse. I also get personal satisfaction out of knowing that I've helped someone by saving them time. I often spend large portions of my day doing nothing but helping others on many of Eclipse's newsgroups. And as you might imagine, newsgroups are not the only source of the needy; the company for which I work is very large.

So let me climb up on my high horse for just a moment, before you knock me down. I believe strongly that helping others is its own reward and that it's best not to expect anything beyond the satisfaction of having helped. Granted it's nice to get a little bit of positive feedback, and one of the best is that you will eventually notice that setting a good example encourages others to follow. Try not to be disheartened when you occasionally go looking for help only to find it's in short supply. Treat all your clients like they are valuable because your projects have no meaning without them.


Jesper Steen Møller said...

In Denmark, at restaurant "The Yellow Seagull", you don't get the ketchup or mayo for free, but they still don't always ask if you want some. Perhaps an oversight.

Yet, they serve billions. The EMF community isn't into millions or billions (yet), but you yourself serve many, many people tinkering with EMF in the newsgroups with your timely answers. So you deserve an reply to your post! Now, I didn't see a question from you in any group I follow, so I don't know the kind of question it was, but what if the persons best able to respond were simply too stupefied by seeing the roles reversed for once?

Or, perhaps it was just an oversight, like the missing ketchup-question? I often end up having to stand in line once more for that.

Ed Merks said...

Jesper, having been born in Holland, I would much prefer mayo instead of ketchup! Though miracle whip is an reasonable substitute for the much finer Calve. But again I digress...

Since I don't like pointing fingers, however tempting it might be, I'll leave finding my unanswered newsgroup question as an exercise for the curious. I've resorted to answering other questions in that group with the hope that doing so will leave more time to answer mine.

I'm sure there are many potentially good reasons for the lack of an answer, e.g., oversight, vacation, illness, or untimely death---is death ever timely?---but I can only hope that stupefaction isn't one of them!

Michael said...

after all, seems like your question has been answered

P.S. in spite of the fact that in southern germany ketchup is more usual - remember that Henry John Heinz stemmed from there!

Ed Merks said...

Indeed my question has been answered now and continues its life as a bugzilla. My faith has been restored!

When it comes to French fry toppings, there's just no accounting for good taste. I've always felt that fries are nature's most nearly perfect food. No matter what you put on them, it's hard to ruin them. Almost any creamy salad dressing goes nicely with them, particularly, something with a little bit of dijon mustard. I'm not a big fan of vinegar though. That pretty near ruins them.