Monday, November 3rd 2014 Thoughts
I want to talk to you today about something really kind of serious, customer service. I’m in a business where it’s my
job career to provide a service to a client. These clients a lot of the time end up being friends (hence the reason I start my posts off with ‘Hey Friends’), and I’m so thankful for that. I have gotten the opportunity to work with some amazing people, from bloggers, to authors, to publishing houses and businesses small and large. I’ve done everything from blog headers, to logos, to business websites, to blogs. In the ten years that I’ve been designing (5 of those professionally) there have been a handful of people that just… didn’t work out. Usually it’s our personalities that don’t fit together. And that specifically, is what I want to talk to you about.
I recently had a project cancelled from a client that I considered a friend. We weren’t the closest but on a spectrum between ‘acquaintances’ and ‘friends’, I would have said friend. Right off the bat, I should have turned this project down because there were red flags everywhere. Literally, TURN BACK WHILE YOU CAN flashing before my eyes. It started off with a tiny bit of advice. After talking to the client about the project in which I’d be doing development for and having being told ‘yeah we’ll start soon’ turn into two weeks, then three, and then four – I asked… Do you have a timeline? Do you have a contract with your client? Why are you allowing your client to dictate when things get done? (As the professional, shouldn’t WE be the ones keeping everyone on track?) This was met instead of with ‘Hmm maybe you’re right’, or ‘No, I mean, it’s not a big deal,’ with “This is my business, this is how I do it.” with basically ‘deal with it and shut up’ tacked on.
Furthermore I noticed that the client was for the most part, unless I was agreeing with them, defensive about… everything. Advice? Wasn’t having it. Helping hand? Wasn’t having it. Ideas? Wasn’t having it. I even got yelled at for calling this person ‘hun’ – which apparently is disrespectful. I personally call it a Southern upbringing. I say ‘hun’, my sister says ‘sweetheart’.
These details though aren’t the important part. When I felt like the client was being defensive, I said so. I made a point to mention that things weren’t going very smoothly, that I didn’t know until the day she gave me the files when I’d actually be starting on the project, and then that when she expected them four days later to be done… that wasn’t going to happen. In the process of the project being pushed back multiple times, I had to take other projects, and I had other deadlines to meet. I made sure these things were 100% clear and also that I didn’t like the defensive tone they took with me, or the way things were being handled in a management sense because it meant that I personally knew NOTHING until it was already on my plate. These things were apparently incredibly emotional and unprofessional and according to the client, not their problem.
See the thing is, I talk to my clients like friends. I help whenever I can, even if that means working on the weekends or an extra three hours to make sure they have a detailed tutorial on how to update WordPress specifically for their site. I call them ‘hun,’ and I interact with them outside of our projects and outside of email. I usually follow them on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook so I can keep up with what they’re doing after we’re done. I offer advice and ideas and feedback on their thoughts and strategies for their sites and how they want to move forward. I am not just a designer, or a developer, I’m a person and everyone has different paths they’ve taken in life and a lot of times what has helped me in mine can help someone else in theirs or vice versa. My goal at any given time, although I do fall short sometimes (I am human), is to help. I love designing, it’s a passion for me, not just something I do, and so when I take on a project and a client I want to know about them. I want to know how this site is integrated with their lives. What does this site do for them? How does it help them? How do they interact with the world through this medium?
That also means that I’m not going to tell you a bad idea is a good one. I’m not going to sit there when I see you being taken advantage of or potentially hurting yourself or your business in some way and not say something. I’m not going to let you be rude, or mean, or pushy with me because you’re paying me and if you ask me for my opinion, you will get it. I’m not going to disregard that we are two people with emotions and thoughts for the sake of being that perfect idea of professional. When I take on a project and a client, it is my job and responsibility to guide that person – to help them aim their site in the direction they want it to go and show them how to get there, with reassurance and pushing if met with fear or uncertainty. I will hold your hand. I will message you on Twitter to ask how you’re doing if you post an update that seems sad or concerning. I will congratulate you on good news. I will wish you a Happy Birthday and I will remember that birthday, and then it comes around to the holidays I will thank you for allowing me for another year to do what I love.
You are not a number, you’re not a piece of paper, you’re not a job, and I will be damned if I ever treat one of my clients like that.
All of that is to say: If you’re looking for a designer who is going to put you up on a soapbox, never question your judgement or ideas, allows you to use them as a tool, never challenges you to be better, and be the type of “professional” who has no emotions and no personality, we are not going to be a good fit. However, if you’re looking for a designer who will partner with you to make a collective effort to make your site look great, to make sure the focus of your site is what you need it to be to get you to where you go, who will offer advice and opinions on ideas and strategies and call you out when they think you might be doing something that harms your site or business, then we, we are going to be great friends.