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From time to time I'll see an email exchange like the following:

Customer: Could we have feature X?

Boss: That would be tricky because we use UDP so we don't know if data is lost.

When in fact we use TCP, not UDP.

My boss does this out of a benevolent intent: he knows he should really ask one of the developers technical details like that, but he knows we're busy so he doesn't want to bother us. So he just comes up with some answer, usually an incorrect one.

The problem it leaves me in is that now the customer is misinformed and gets annoyed when they later talk to a developer and get inconsistent information.

What would be a polite yet convincing way to suggest to my boss that it's better that he not misinform the customer? Or, on the other hand, what might we the developers do differently so that my boss doesn't feel like he needs to shield us from simple questions like this?

  • It's been a while. How did things go? – James Youngman Aug 3 '16 at 8:51
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The problem it leaves me in is that now the customer is misinformed and gets annoyed when they later talk to a developer and get inconsistent information.

Do they get annoyed in writing? If so, share these emails with your boss. It's a customer service issue so just frame it that way:

"Our customers are getting annoyed and confused because they're receiving conflicting information. Would it be possible for the developers to handle these questions from now on? What would we need to do for you to be comfortable with us handling this?"

If your boss is concerned you don't have time to answer these questions, point out that this doesn't save time since you still have to handle it later.

You need to find out from your boss what needs to happen so that he's comfortable letting the team handle these emails. Do they need to be answered in a certain time frame? Does he not want you spending more than X% of your time on customer questions? You won't know what the team needs to do differently until you know what he wants to see happen.

  • +1. You don't have to wait for it to reach this point but this is one possible way of raising the issue and has the benefit of making sure that it's seen as a real problem. – Lilienthal Jun 8 '16 at 10:20
  • Also consider that part of the problem might be the customer is later getting information from the developer. It's helpful when dealing with customers to have single points of communication where possible, yes even when that person is wrong or an idiot. You might feel smart when you correct your boss, but it makes your whole team look bad. If you can somehow correct and stand by what your boss said at the same time, that makes all of you look good. – TechnicalEmployee Jun 10 '16 at 16:47
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Any customer issues, no matter how minor should be documented. If a customer is unhappy it can affect business, so if one complained verbally I would email the boss

'Hey boss, XYX was a bit miffed because he reckons you said we use UDP instead of TCP. I've explained it all to him and he seemed happy enough when he left, but just giving you a heads up.' (Although this particular issue would be too small for me to bother the boss with unless the customer was very irate, normally I'd just do damage control, get the client happy, document it and carry on.)

This way there is a record and the boss has been made aware and my back is covered if the customer makes a more formal complaint. I make notes for both my own and the companies future reference of anything out of the ordinary to do with a project.

If the customer is unhappy in an email to you, then forward the email to the boss so he's aware. Or email an apology and outline a solution cc'ing the boss. Whichever suits the situation.

Use your judgement on this, don't annoy the boss with tiny things (still document them though). The boss (assuming he is competent) will change his methods on his own after a few 'heads up'.

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If you see such an email exchange, why not reply to your boss1 and inform him off his mistake as soon as you see it2?

1. Make sure you reply to your boss only and don't do a reply all.

2. You can only correct him on things you know about

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