Globalization has morphed the landscape of client and customer relations in only a few short decades. You may work with a company that has an office just down the street from yours or completely online as they are located on the other side of the world. Understanding how different companies operate will help you become a better consumer.
I had an interaction with a potential client recently that left me taken aback. During our exchanges, I stated key team members didn't live within the United States. I mentioned this because an in-person meeting wouldn't have been possible. We were willing to work with their time schedule of course. This didn't sit well with them that they would be 'sending money overseas' in any capacity. They threw a vague threat that they could have the work done for cheap by any company located in India. Was the prospect of working with people outside the U.S. that daunting or inconvenient? I thanked them for their time and said my company wouldn't be able to help. I informed them that I don't allow my geographical location limit who I work with and that was how I operated my company.
Perhaps this confusion could have been avoided by a few simple steps.
There's nothing worse than exchanging a dozen emails and phone calls, setting up a meeting date, and then getting through the meeting only to realize you aren't a good fit to work together. The way to avoid this would be to ask questions and lots of them. If you prefer to work with a state-side only company, ask where their headquarters are. If you want to know in-house staff will be working on your project, ask to meet them all. No, really. Asking to meet the team involved shows your initiate as a customer. That speaks volumes that you're a serious client and they need to step up their game.
If you have no qualms with working with people outside of your area, globally or nationally, be understanding to what they have to contend with. Their time zones will be different and they are making compromises to meet and communicate with you. If they are dedicated to giving great service, they might be up very early or late just to fit your schedule. Keep in mind that no one is perfect. You wouldn't believe how often weather has crashed the meeting and kept people away. It isn't because they are being rude, they might have a literal hurricane to deal with.
If you have specific expectations, make them known before you sign a contract. Stating your desires and goals from the business relationship are best cleared up before any work gets started. If you think you might offend someone with what you're looking for, then it might be an issue to discuss with your contact in private. Working in an environment that is tense is unpleasant for everyone involved. Don't avoid it, address it.
When the client from my story threatened to take their business elsewhere, I didn't hesitate to say 'No Thanks.' The attitude that I'll do anything for your business isn't how I run my shop. We aren't a big-box store that you can bring competitor coupons to and still get what you want. Making threats that you can get the same thing for less elsewhere makes me question why you are emailing me. I have the luxury of selecting the customers my team and I work with. If we don't mesh, that's completely OK. No one likes to be treated this way, so don't do it in a professional context.
It applies to everyday life, both in and out of the office: treat people the way you would want to be treated. Knowing how to be a better customer helps people you work with be better business people. A little give and take, clarity, and no fear on asking tough questions will benefit everyone.
I used to never fill out surveys or reviews. Back at the dawn of Amazon, Yelp, Angie's List, and other review specific sites, I didn't bother to give my feedback on products or services. Mainly because I didn't believe my opinion mattered. These huge companies have thousands of customers and my voice was but a blip among them. But now, as a small business owner, I now go out of my way to provide feedback as much as possible. Why? Because I know how important it is.
There has never been a time in human history where we as a society were so connected. The internet bridges all the gaps of geography to bring producers of products, and providers of services, closer than ever before with end-users and customers. We have the opportunity to let the people who make things know how good (or bad) they are doing. And knowing that they listen does great things for both sides. We inform them of issues and this gives them the chance to address them. We are the extra eyes and ears of a business that might have missed something along the path of production (it happens more than you would imagine) and most are grateful for the assistance.
Small businesses rely on customer feedback as well as referrals. A happy customer will share their experience with the people closest to them which will drive more business. But the range is limited to the circle of influence that one customer has. What a survey can do is take that positive energy and give the customer a platform to tell more people. The business essentially provides their customers with a megaphone to tell a wider audience about their experience. This open form of communication benefits both parties. It provides a platform for customers to express how they feel about the product/service they utilized, and shows the business as trustworthy and welcoming.
I admit to being intimidated about asking clients to provide testimonials and reviews. I always felt as if I was invading their space and requesting for more of their time. But this wasn't the case at all. In fact, everyone I ever asked was more than happy to supply feedback about their experience working with me and my company. It's another 2017 resolution I will be implementing after every finished project and hope it will become second nature in time. Aside from having a new portfolio piece to show off, I want to show off my happy clients with their own words. So be on the look out in the near future for a survey popping up in your inbox (if we have your email that is). I want to have relationships with my clients built on trust and honesty.
If you're a past client of ours and want to give feedback on your experience, here's your chance to have your voice heard! You can leave us a review on our Google Business Page or on our Angie's List Page. Your feedback matters more than you think. So don't be shy, we're always here to listen!