Like any crazed freelancer, I receive multiple emails a day from clients who all need something right at the same time. I’m not sure if this is a good sign or not, but it’s how things have been going for the past three years and change. How do you tell people they are important…but there are others in the crowd?
“Yes, I fully appreciate your issue. Yes, I’m working on a fix. No, I can’t do it right this second, because I have ten of you.”
That’s how many of my conversations go these days. It’s a bit like triage; you have to assess the critical nature of the need before replying to the email. Sometimes I’ll get emails, text messages, and phone calls, all in the span of a few minutes, because someone is convinced that the world is ending when a small piece of text isn’t formatting correctly.
Please understand, I’m not saying this is wholly inappropriate behavior. I understand that these sites/tools are part of the lifeline to many of my client’s businesses, and they need to be functioning properly! We workers must also understand that our clients hired us to deal with these problems so they wouldn’t have to, which is something I fail to remember at times.
There’s no substitution for care when it comes to something like this; we just need to figure out how to properly communicate that care. (Note: This may indicate that I need to work with fewer clients…more on that later.)
Working the Magic
When dealing with issues in any relationship, business or personal, the essential thing to display to the other party is a desire to see them succeed. I personally believe that this is central to the ways we tell stories, sell products, and provide services. Sometimes all at the same time. Both sides must understand at least enough about the other party to sympathize with their situation. We do business with people, not robots.
So how do we tell people that they are important, that we care about their work, and that we’re doing our very best to get them “bumped up in the queue” when things go wrong?
Here are a few things I try to communicate:
- I am actively working on a fix to that issue (be honest – don’t tell them something unless you plan to do it).
- I have a proposed solution for the interim, or how they can help gather more data (get them involved).
- We signed a contract that said we would get specific functionality in place, and I keep my word.
If all else fails in our always-on culture of instant gratification and moment-by-moment over-reaction, sometimes you simply have to explain: “We will get this fixed, but please remember, I have ten of you.”