Being an internet marketing person, nothing kills business like no internet. I only have two choices… Evil and the Lessor Evil. Having tried them both, I chose the faster but less reliable one. I have called, emailed, tweeted, posted on their Facebook page and it's obvious… my $200 a month is a drop in a BIGGY BUCKET. So what's a consumer to do… “Cheaper, Better, Faster… Pick two”. What really matters is we don't matter to them. They could CARE less. The fact that it was down for the majority of a Friday (one of my most productive days of the week) or it goes out Saturday night (right in the middle of a streaming movie), is not their problem.
So What Do You Do?
I am not talking about your internet, I am talking about when a client calls, emails, texts, Facebook's you with a problem, that has really nothing to do with what you are doing for them (maybe at this moment). It happens to me all the time. You worked with a client on a project three years ago, and they reach out to you with support questions? If you are like me, you sell your time, or maybe you sell a product. In this free information internet world, people expect answers and support without any charges or obligations?
You have to set some boundaries and let them know where you stand. Then again, all relationships take work to maintain. That means that you can't just brush them off because they are not paying you today, but you have to protect yourself from being taken advantage of also!
Devil in the Details!!
In most businesses, there is always a slicker, newer, (and maybe) better option than your's at the moment. There is an old joke that goes… The Devil talks to a business man and convinces him to visit HELL. The business man takes the elevator down and the Devil shows him around the country club, including the dining room, golf course and massage center to meet his every need. The business man takes the elevator up to Heaven and sees a bunch of smiling people flying around and playing harps. He decides that's not the way he want's to spend eternity, so he signs with the Devil. When he get's off the elevator in hell this time, it's filled with people screaming with fire and what he imagined hell was before the first visit. He asks the Devil “What the HELL Happened?” The Devil says… “Yesterday you were a prospect… Today you are a CLIENT!”.
So how do you make a distinction between giving them (your past customers) the over and above kind of tech support or customer service, and simply being taken advantage of? Hopefully these three tips help?
What's a Business To Do?
- Be True To Yourself – You are in business. That means you sell a commodity… time, knowledge, or a product or service. You will get hit from all angles to make you may feel their problem is your problem. Unless it's a recent client, it's really not, but they may turn to you because you have helped them out in the past or you are their only (often free) answer. Be sure to respond, just be careful how you do it. Open ended responses open the door to more responses (for free).
- Be True To The Client – Be strong and be up front with them. “I would be happy to help you, but I charge $xxx and hour. I estimate that it will take 3 hours to deal with your problem. How would you like to proceed?”. Don't leave them hanging and miss the opportunity to help, but unless you promised it… you have not been paid like a “Free Tech Support For Life” company either? If you have not set boundaries prior, then you have to do them now! Be responsive, yet be a business person!
- Be Honest and A Resource – This is the part that is the hardest… do to your best to give 100% and expect nothing in return. Offer them your service and be up front if you have to charge them. Also be ready to offer suggestions for free or low cost options. Even if it does not make you money, it may make you memorable and a continued resource. They may find that it's too much work to chase free answers and end up paying you in the long run to solve their immediate problems. Expect nothing and be amazed at the results!
If you are lucky enough to be the only game in town or the neighborhood, then you can choose to ignore this advice. If you are like the majority of us, then you have to be active and interactive to build and maintain relationships to avoid the “Johnny Come Lately”, from taking business away. Even if they do, be prepared to welcome them back with “Open Arms”. Ask Yourself “Am I Tough Enough?” and now go to your iTunes library with those 3 song Earworms!
I would love to hear your thoughts, stories and inspirations to help others?