The Website Refugee or How I met my clients
I've had a recurring chat with quite a few business owners or people closely involved in one business or another. The chat usually revolves around the topic of poor customer service by their current or prior webmaster/designer/whatever they call themselves that day. Now I don't profess to be a robot of efficiency in my efforts to be provide service to my clients but from the sounds of what I've heard, I'm doing pretty well. I judge pretty well by meaning I don't hide from my clients and they don't hide from me, a fairly low bar for customer service but nowadays that appears to really be an achievement of some sort.
I actually never thought my service ethic was anything particularly unique. I guess it is. It shouldn't be though. It should be standard.
My service philosophy ( not sure it qualifies as a philosophy as I didn't spend any time sitting with my hand under my chin to make any grand discovery) I simply follow the golden rule. I like and appreciate good service. It can't be a grand leap of logic to assume others might just feel the same way as myself. For example: when a client emails me or texts me I get back to them in a reasonable time frame usually within a few hours, always by the next business day. If it's an emergency that threatens their business and is something which I can help them with, I do so. As quick as I physically can. I know in many cases I may not be asked to provide service or assistance for a long period of time, during those times I'm like a shock absorber, I'm there, make for a smoother ride, but the truck can make it down the road without me if it had to. During critical times, I'm like a tire, without my help and support my client is going to be stranded and have to reach out to others to try to get help because I've let them down.
Poor Service provided by others "in my field" has driven quite a bit of business my way.When that business comes my way I try to empathize with my clients in their plight but refrain from adding to the misery by running down whoever the prior company/person/etc was. It's unprofessional, awkward and doesn't lead to any place good. I do take time to listen to what the problems were or are so that I can better understand where everything went off target. Off Target usually equals poor communications, poor planning, unclear vision and short sighted decisions.
I've heard it said that most computer geeks, programmers, etc are introverts with poor communication skills. That may be true, it may not, regardless if they've put themselves in between a client and the client's investment of a website or other product or service they must find a way to succeed in better communications. That may mean having a go-between or a representative who can communicate effectively and act as a technical interpreter of sorts. If they simply aren't willing to do that, then they need to do themselves and everyone else a favor, go work for a design house where that is not part of their responsibilities. Just because you know how to service a jet engine doesn't mean you should be flying the plane too.
I've found that providing good solid service makes me feel good. It makes me feel needed, as if I'm part of something bigger than myself, that others are relying on me to come through for them and I do. I do my best. Sometimes my best isn't good enough and I tell my client when that happens. I'd want to know if I was them. That allows them to keep moving forward without false hopes or long delays. Will they still be my client? In most cases yes. In some cases they need something that I can't deliver to them and they have to move on. the way I see it, I was useful to them getting to a certain point in their business and that was the role I played to the best of my ability and I'm okay with that.
In the end, when it comes to providing service to my clients I have to ask myself, if I run into them in public, will we try to avoid each other, one out of disappointment, the other out of shame? Is the service I'm rendering them the same quality as the service I'd like to receive? My answer has always been and will always be the golden rule.