Customer Service of Programmers

The news has been full of hearing about the tragedies surrounding the Toyota/Lexus accelerator issues.  I know that for quite a while we’d been hearing about the problem, but since the problem seems to contribute to accidents and fatalities, it’s become not only a PR nightmare but a troubleshooting nightmare.  At first they thought it was the floor mats getting stuck but more recently it seems to be a sensor and accelerator issue.  It makes me thankful that my programming errors and troubleshooting doesn’t have life-threatening qualities to it, but the process we must go through is much the same.

When things happen on one of our websites that we cannot explain or an error shows up, it becomes a tricky bit of troubleshooting.  We don’t know much about the surfing habits or technical levels of those wielding the mouse and keyboard so we assume the worst.  It is therefore my job as a programmer for a website to design my code to work for the lowest of the low, including 15-year old browsers.

At some point, like Google has found recently, you just have to give up and stop supporting such old technology, but we continue to serve our clients the best that we can, and that means making sure they don’t lose that customer just because they’re on an old computer.  That’s why it’s so important to always try to get to the bottom of issues.  If Toyota doesn’t do this, more lives could be lost. If we don’t do this, more customers could be lost.  Both are tragic in their own way.

As programmers we are the last line of defence for our clients, we have to be sure our code is solid and if there is a problem, we cannot stop until it is fixed.  There is no option of just giving up and saying ‘oh well, we don’t care if you lose customers’.  In the end, that sort of attitude loses customers for us as well – if they don’t have business, they don’t get paid.  If they don’t get paid, we don’t get paid, so it’s always in our best interest to insure our clients, and their clients, are getting the best experience possible.

So we as programmers, even if we aren’t directly customer facing, must always be thinking customer service.  Whether we’re building a medical or healthcare website or something in interactive ecommerce, the end user is the most important user.  Our clients’ needs must be satisfied but in the end if their clients do not know how to navigate the site or can’t use it or just have problems in general, we’ve not done our job properly.