How far is that extra mile anyway?

We have all heard of the phrase "going the extra mile" when people talk about providing exceptional service to their customers. And I'm definitely a proponent of this mentality.

However, I've also once heard of the phrase "your lack of planning does not constitute my emergency", murmured by a former colleague when referring to a particularly demanding customer, and also think that it makes perfect sense.

At the office, I sometimes get calls from our partners/resellers with requests of the kind "um...I've got this demo in 2 hours, and I need your help to build this integration against this application that I want to show for my demo."

First thought that always came to my mind was that wonderful phrase uttered by the colleague. I mean, c'mon! My day is usually fully planned out and these kind of things really throw a monkey wrench into things.

My following thought would be, well, they are trying to sell our product for us, and consider the alternative: I tell the partner to blow off and tell the customer to reschedule and give us more time. On such close notice, this would make the partner look very bad in front of the customer, not to mention the partner might have made a long trip onsite for this demo--all of which aren't the end of the world, but a lost opportunity nonetheless.

With that thought, I put my regular schedule aside, got online with the partner and in 2 hours, whipped up a prototype demo into shape, in time for them to show the customer. Everyone was happy...well, except may be me! <whine>You've taken 2 hours of my life on something you could have done yourself, and I want it back!</whine>.

So, although I think that my colleague's "lack of planning" speech is absolutely spot-on--just like the theory of communism is absolutely spot-on--unfortunately, just like communism, it's not very practical ;-)...which brings me to the subject of this blog post: how far is that extra mile? I'll get back to you when I have the answer.