The repeat customer

Saturday morning I picked up a rental car. The process wasn’t unusual since I’ve picked up a car several times over the last few months from the same rental location. At this point, I know most of the car rental staff by name and even by their voices on the phone when I call in a reservation.

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Notably as I’m getting to know the staff members, I’ve noticed most of them try to get me in the nicest car on the lot at the best price. But one of the car rental staff seems to do the opposite. It seems the more frequently I rent a car, one of the staff members, (I’ll call him Ed) is less interested in making sure I’m satisfied. Ed, it seems, sees me as a repeat customer, a customer he can shuttle out quickly. The more Ed works with me, the less interested he seems to be in making me happy. Perhaps he assumes I will return regardless of the service.

Later in the day, I was sitting down for a quite lunch alone, reflecting on the rental car situation, I was thinking about the frequent and repeat customer. How do I treat my repeat customers?

Do I get lazy or sloppy in how I handle my repeat customers? Or do I try to continually give my repeat customer the best of what I am able?

I was thinking about this as I was eating lunch. What’s the real answer to this? I scrunched up my face thinking about this. What’s the truth?

Then I looked across my lunch table and noticed my dorky bag. I had carefully printed materials the night before in preparation for a busy Saturday of errands. I had printed user stories and bug write-ups about new features coming in a new build I’ll be testing. I had my pencil case with highlighters and post-its. I had forecasted that twice during my busy errand-running Saturday I would be stuck in a waiting room somewhere and have short bursts of available time. I had planned my reading. And all of my reading Saturday was for my most frequent repeat customer.

I smiled when I looked at my bag, the reading material in that bag and the prep work I often do is my answer. It’s not what you say but what you do, right? I don’t want to be lazy and I don’t want to be sloppy. And I certainly don’t want to treat a repeat customer as someone I will assume will be a repeat customer.

For this particular project and this particular client, there are a couple of people on the team who don’t really understand what I do. From their point of view, I find bugs; I am the exploratory tester on the team. I think any other details of what I do, might likely bore them – and that’s ok. I have finally realized not everyone has to think testing is one of the best possible bits of work someone could have. I would speculate that they believe, I sit down cold and unprepared to new internal releases of software and somehow just find stuff. And I do, often.

But I also do my homework.

I read every bit of what I can get my hands on. I read each user story posted on the team wiki. I frequently print off pages from the wiki and markup those user stories with my own notes. Those notes are loaded with test ideas. I spend time, sitting back, sometimes even closing my eyes and picturing the software. I try picturing the code, I try picturing the database changes. I ask for that type of information too but I also like trying to picture the details on my own. I’m thinking about test ideas all the time. This is my prep work, this is my homework and this homework is especially important to me when I have a release coming with new features. It’s not uncommon for me to read in bursts, write up ideas in bursts to try to make good use of small pockets of time. I also work in small bursts because I know better than to think all my ideas will come at once. The sooner I can read material, the longer that material has time to ferment in my head and that fermentation process appears to help.

And of course, some bugs do just find their way into my hands. And some bugs I find as I generate new ideas as I test. But I know that when I sit down with the release, I’ll be ready to pounce on those new features better, faster than if I hadn’t done my homework. Homework is part of my deliberate practice.

My client won’t know I was reading and writing and prepping intermittently on Saturday. Those aren’t the little pockets of time I bill for, that’s just how I work. Some of the details of how I do what I do – doesn’t matter to my clients. I guess I could compare a new build to sports game, when athletes walk onto a field and you don’t see their practice time. You just see the execution. But me talking about sports is a bad idea because I don’t really know much at all about sports. I just see the parallel of the unseen prep time.

Today is Monday. The new build should be out within the next few hours and I’m ready. I guess I could have skipped my homework; honestly the client would not distinctly be aware of it but I would speculate they would see a difference in the results.

I could assume the client will continue to use my services. But my work is my reputation.

Familiarity is a comfortable thing. We can talk faster based on past shared experiences, we know each other better. And over time, we get to know bits of each other’s lives. But familiarity can get too comfortable. I think about my rental agent, he’s getting sloppy and I don’t take kindly to it. The rental agent’s service is a good reminder– not to get lazy, not to get sloppy and not to assume a customer will remain a repeat customer. It’s a good mentality to have and to keep at the start of the week.

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