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.

My Customer Story

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.

Ask Questions

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.

Be Understanding

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.

Be Upfront

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.

Don't Make Threats

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.

The Golden Rule

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.