Ego-less Customer Service

In all endeavors, without discounting ambitious purpose, you must hew to ego-lessness and faithfulness.

We recently had a client of a type we like to call the “sleepy” clients.  These are clients for whom most communications, decisions, provision of any resources are slow at best, non-existent at worst. A lot gets accomplished at face to face meetings, but invariably there are things we cannot accomplish at that time. We need X from distribution, prices from the marketing department, some photos that someone took but happened to not show up for the meeting.  We write things down, make lists, make sure everyone has each other’s emails and then get to our work.

A few days pass, and I send out a little email.  “So, I’m still waiting on Pedro’s information.  I need it to get the product prices up. He also said he had new packaging too. If you have photos of those things already then drop them in our shared cloud folder that we set up. If he doesn’t have photos, I can come by and pick up the packaging and image it instead.”

I hear nothing back.  The next day, I get a one line message.  “What is the address for the shared cloud folder?”

Within seconds, I find the original email with their access URL, user and password and forward it. It is a subtle indicator that I had already sent them the information without being too overt about it.

Since I am the admin for this folder space, I can tail the logs to see if they are actually logging in or having difficulty or whatnot.  I don’t assume anything.

Hours pass and I do not even see an attempt, not a missed login, nope, not even an access.

I say to myself that the project isn’t that important to them, and move onto other clients thinking that they will get me the information when it suits them.  No big.

Another week passes, and I get another one line email, “Where are we with the website?”

After I pull my hair out and grind my teeth to stubs, I carefully compose an email stating that the site requires this many more hours of work, that I need the following items, that once I have those items, we should be able to launch within two weeks.  “BTW,” I ask, “What do you think of the progress so far?”  The website already has more than 6 weeks or work into it, the design, a lot of content, the general layout of everything is what they had asked for in the initial meeting.  I had provided them with a beta URL so that they would be able to see daily progress on the site.

No response. A few days later, I get an email, “What is the address of the page?”

Again, within seconds, I re-send them the link.  Just click here, I tell them, do not put www in front of the beta, just click on it. It’s happened before, so I am aware of the mistakes people make. I again, curse them mentally since I can’t believe we have been working for 6 weeks and they have not even looked at the site.

Some days later, I get the following email, “We don’t like the page.”

Okay, I silently mutter, I quit.  That’s it. I am dis-animated, wondering where I went wrong. Was I not accessible enough? Was the pitch wrong, have they not been enthused the whole time? Perhaps, they have been trying to figure out a way to fire me for the past weeks. If the project is failing, if I am honest with myself, it must be because of me.

After a round of self-doubt and despair, I re-center, pretend I am a drone, an emotionless, ego-less, indestructible automaton, and charge ahead. Politely inquiring where the “look” of the site displeases them and how it can be made better in a mea culpa fall on my sword overly polite manner.

And then I wait.

After a while, I receive a longer email detailing some changes which turn out to be minor. The language of the email acknowledges their lack of reciprocity and thanks me for my attention, time, and faithfulness. They promise to be better and on we march. I am still frustrated with the project and I wonder if it will ever launch and in what form it will launch, but I just can’t let it get to me.  In all endeavors, without discounting ambitious purpose, you must hew to ego-lessness and faithfulness.

And one final epilogue: I know it would have been easy to send a snarky response akin to, “It would be helpful if you could state specifically what it is you do not like. Frankly, some vague ‘I don’t like this’ this late in the game, your untimely communication, and your general lack of commitment to the project is unacceptable.” That’s pretty mild as far as responses go, but it would still get you no where and in fact, if the client actually does realize they have dropped the ball, you pointing it out will only make you the bad guy, or more likely, someone who generally inspires discomfort when they have to deal with you in the future.  People do not like having their failures shown to them. I am generally bad at this, as I am prone to “pounce” in a self-righteous fashion. It is better for you to ignore your client’s shortcomings, pretending everything is just peachy, and continue to march forward. Ignore the bad, promote the good.

I can say in the short term it does not feel good. You want so desperately to “let them have it” especially for all the grief they have caused, but long term, you forget about it (and so do they) and you get paid.