No matter how “online” and computer-based your business might be, human interaction is still something that can’t be avoided and has to be done properly. After years of experience in dealing with hundreds of different clients online, I’m still not sure how to react and what to do in some situations.
Whether you are a business owner selling your products or services online, or a customer buying something from an online shop, there are certain rules and guidelines for online communication that are universal and well-known but still often forgotten. The basic customer-seller interaction rules apply wherever and in whatever way the interaction is happening – don’t insult, be polite, be patient, listen, and remember – the client is always right.
I have to admit, when I first started working here and taking care of our clients from all over the world, it was easy to forget about the last rule mentioned. Some clients can be very unpleasant and try to convince you they are right and you are wrong, when you know that’s not the case. Snapping at them and losing your temper is the worst thing you can do – it can result in losing money, losing the client and perhaps even losing your job, if these “incidents” continue.
But it’s not only the service providers and sellers who need to have good manners and patience. It’s expected for clients to be polite and understanding as well. In my few years dealing with clients who wanted graphic designs or article outreach or social media management, I had some amazing encounters and people that I still love chatting to, but there were also some that were more undecided and therefore made the collaboration harder.
I have this “perfect client” in my mind and decided to create this set of guidelines for those buying online from an agency (like ours) and discussing with customer support. They are here to help people get the best service without getting angry and annoyed.
1. Know what you want
This is a pretty obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many times people order a service – like graphics – and aren’t sure about what exactly they want. We had clients come with just a topic in mind, without any other ideas or suggestions. Sure, it can be good for us designers to have open hands when coming up with a design, but there’s a high possibility that the client won’t like the final product. Client and designer are obviously not the same person, they have different taste.
It often happens that the conversation starts with “Oh, I don’t know what it should look like, you decide” and ends with “I don’t like this, make it different.” This forces the designer to do double work (especially if the final design is completely missed), and it makes the client become anxious and annoyed. That’s why people should come prepared, know what they want from seller/designer and give them all the information they need.
2. Ask questions and participate
By saying “know what you want”, I don’t expect every client to know exactly what they want to the last detail – no one does, and requests often change during the process. Clients shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions about what they are ordering, whether it’s graphic design or anything else that requires more details and is not a “cookie cutter” product or service. Ask away about what exactly you are getting, how it will be done, how long will it take, what’s the next step after finishing the project, why is something done the way it is, and so on.
Of course, everything in moderation, so don’t overdo it and ask about every single little detail. Let the expert do his job, they won’t be able to concentrate if you are interrupting them all the time 😉
3. Listen to advice
If you’re ordering some service or product from an online agency, it’s possible that you’re not as skilled in a certain area as you would like to be, or don’t have time to do it yourself. It’s only logical you’ll hire someone who is much better at it to do it for you. When someone is more skilled than you are at something, you should listen to their advice even when they are suggesting some changes to your original ideas.
You might want to have some color combination on your design that you really like, but a skilled graphic designer knows that this combination just doesn’t work and doesn’t do any good for the design or for attracting the audience. They should suggest you a change, explain their reasoning and listen to your opinion. Of course, you don’t have to agree and you can easily ask them to go with your idea no matter what, but listening to expert advice from someone who has a lot more experience than you might have is not a bad thing and certainly doesn’t mean you are wrong, but that there is a better way that can bring you more benefits.
4. Don’t be unrealistic
We all have our expectations and often build up things in our head, it’s natural 🙂 But, it can be an issue when it comes to communicating with the person you hired to create something for you. It’s nearly impossible to hire an SEO service and expect them to get your site to number 1 spot on Google in a week, or a graphic designer to hand-draw lots of different elements to make your infographic a piece of art in 3 days. The unrealistic expectations aren’t only time-related. On some occasion, clients have ideas and wishes that simply aren’t possible to fulfill.
This tip goes well with the first one, too. While you’re thinking about what exactly you want, don’t ask for impossible or something that can’t be done in as much time as you want it to be. This doesn’t mean you have to give up on your ideas entirely. Discuss with your designer/service provider and come up with similar but easier to do solution.
5. Don’t forget to pay
Yet another pretty obvious piece of advice but people often skip on it, especially if they’re hiring someone on a recurring basis. When you provide a service or sell something, you want people to pay, and you shouldn’t expect anything less from people you are hiring or buying from. Haggling clients and those who are trying to lower a fixed price are not among favourites either.
It’s as simple as this: the expert you hired spent his valuable time and resources working on your project and it’s something they can’t get back, no matter if you like the final product or service or not. It’s normal that not everyone can be happy with the final product, but still, you got a service and you should pay for it.
On the other hand, if the service or final product was better than expected, consider adding bonus to your payment or ordering more products from the same company. Sometimes even a nice review is enough too 🙂
That’s it, these are my 5 tips for becoming that “perfect client”. I suppose I could add a last, bonus one, which is pretty basic actually – treat others like you’d expect them to treat you. That’s how we deal with clients here at Point Visible and the majority of our clients are very happy with our customer service and often praise it in reviews. It’s definitely not easy to stay calm during all conversations, but it helps a lot. I’ll end this with an Oatmeal classic 😉
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