Oct
14

It's Working for Me

Posted by Aaron West at 10:55 AM in Programming

One of the worst things you can ever say as a developer/programmer is "It's working for me." Unless of course that is immediately followed by "..but let's dig in and figure out why it isn't working for you." This type of thinking is a cancer within development teams and certainly isn't customer focused. Software breaks, apps don't work properly, and if you're a developer it's your responsibility to do whatever it takes to resolve your customer issues. A few years ago one of my dev teams was having tremendous difficulty replicating a customer-reported issue. One of the developers started the whole "It's working for me" thing and my manager heard it. He jumped in and quickly asked my developer if he was going to package up his computer and ship it to the customer. What a great response.

When you're up against tough issues, try not to think about how hard or how long it might take you to resolve the issue, but resolve to fix it no matter what it takes. Then, and as early as possible, assure your customer that you will do whatever it takes.

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This entry was posted by Aaron West on October 14, 2011 at 10:55 AM. It was filed in the following categories: Programming. It has been viewed 13129 times and has 13 comments.

13 Responses to It's Working for Me

  1. Dmitriy Goltseker

    Couldn't have said it better.

  2. Well said. Great points. I especially like the whole "ship them your computer" part. I have actually wished I could have done that once to solve an issue.

  3. This post doesn't work for me :)


    Well said, I've used that reply a lot as well or "but we're not shipping your machine to everyone are we"

  4. Reminds me of this old Coding Horror post:

    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/03/the-works...

  5. @Adam - that's awesome. Thanks for the link.

  6. I confess, I'm guilty of having said "Works for me." I usually follow it up by asking more questions and requesting more information of how in particular they came to the problem, etc.

    More often than not, I'm giving vague answers or some back and forth heehawing about how we don't want to bother the client with silly questions. I'm tired of the, "We can't bother the client with all these questions, they're not going to understand." If they can supposedly be bothered to use the app and break it, they can be bothered to explain how they broke it.

    Until I get specifics, the "Works for me" statement remains. I'll do my damnest to attempt to break it like they did, but more often than not, I may find unrelated issues with the original issue which I fix or the issue wasn't communicated properly.

  7. @Todd - getting good information about issues can be a challenge. I think it's the developers responsibility to be diligent about getting what they need to solve the issue though.

  8. Slight typo in my original post "giving vague answers = given vague answers".

    Wish it were that simple where I work. I have very little access to the client in what I do. All I can do be diligent in my discussions with the project manager to find out what happened.

  9. @Todd - I realize each company has their own protocol when it comes to employees talking with customers. As long as your being diligent to resolve the issue by asking questions of whomever you have access to, I think you're doing the right things. Out of curiosity though, what would happen if you asked your project manager if you could talk with the customer? Would they say no?

  10. gus

    There are times when "works for me" is the right thing to say. I recently had a client that was having an issue in one of about 8 offices accessing an application.

    After testing it from various remote locations, I told them "It works for me".

    Turns out they had a DNS issue in that one office, for which my company had no responsibility or access to. We could have spent days troubleshooting on our end to no avail, and would have had to bill the client for that time.

    Simple truth was... "It worked for me" and everyone else except that office.

  11. @gus - You missed an opportunity to be a hero! I understand that ultimately the issue wasn't "your problem," but imagine how your customer would have responded had you helped them anyway? I doubt you would've spent days tracking down a DNS problem, and in the end your client would see you going above and beyond to get YOUR app working for them. Now that's service.

  12. BradmanGA

    Reminds me of:
    http://geekandpoke.typepad.com/geekandpoke/2011/08...

  13. Gus

    @Aaron - Actually, I didn't miss the opportunity at all. I consult with the client on an hourly basis. By letting them know quickly that the problem was not on my end I saved them a fair chunk of change. Yes, I could have eventually diagnosed the problem, but without access to their network it would have taken significantly longer than letting them know it was an issue within that particular office.

    They were grateful I didn't waste alot of time, for which they pay for, on a problem for which they were responsible.

    I stand by the comment that occasionally (certainly not always) the best thing to tell a client is "it works fine for me". This allows them to find the actual problem more efficiently.