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How do YOU define service? (2 of 3)

19 December 2018

Myriam

Service is everywhere in our lives. Bad service. OK service. Service so warm and friendly you ugly cry. Service so infuriating it makes you want to pull your hair out.

You’ve experienced all of this, right?

 

Have you ever asked yourself how others experience the service YOU provide? I bet you have, but just in case you haven’t: you need to.

In the last few months, Mathieu and I have had to shop for services we had never needed when we had a full-time job, like web hosting, web design, specialized software, supplies, accounting, coworking space, phone systems… The list is never-ending and ongoing. And since there was so much going on at the same time, we really needed, more than ever, to rely on informed, competent, dependable people to provide these services. Did we always get that? Errrm, no.

I had experienced bad service before in my life, but I was experiencing it for the first time as a freelancer. After I was done whining1 on and on about it, I thought to myself:

“How can I grow from this experience?”

And this is how I came up with the idea for this series of blog posts.

I can’t promise I’ll help you avoid getting bad service in your personal or professional life, but I can help you provide even better service to your clients. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1- When you receive an inquiry, half the job is already done. So get on it. Do you know how many questions or quote requests I’ve sent by email or through contact forms?

A lot.

Do you know how many replies I’ve received?

Not many. And if you leave out the useless/incomprehensible ones, that’s even fewer.

My advice: don’t ignore clients who are reaching out to you. Yes, answering questions, assessing needs, promoting your services, writing quotes, etc. takes a lot of your time. But it’s all part of the game. If you really don’t feel like taking on another client, at least send a polite email stating that you’re unavailable. Even better: refer them to someone you know and trust. Whatever you do, just don’t leave them hangin’. It reflects badly on you, and it will hurt your business down the road.

2- Write a quote. Follow the quote. It’s very important that, in the end, you deliver everything that was agreed upon, whether it’s in a quote, in a contract, in an email or verbally (although, I strongly suggest you get everything in writing before starting a job). Plan ahead and warn that any additional work that couldn’t be assessed at the time of writing the quote will be charged, and how. And if that situation arises, be transparent and call your client. You want to avoid sending a final invoice with a bad surprise.

Don’t make your client gag when they have to pay your invoice. And don’t blame them for your mistakes (true story).

Remember how happy you were to pay your bill that time you received phenomenal service? Aim for that feeling again, but for your clients. If they’re happy to pay for your services, they’ll keep doing it!

 

3- Stick to what you know. Whenever you interact with or advise your clients, be careful that you don’t sound like you’re telling them how they should be doing their job. Stay within the scope of your expertise, and above all, be courteous. I once had to explain to a client that the French hashtag she was using had a grammatical error in it. The adjective had the feminine form while modifying a masculine noun. I had to insist quite a bit, and finally had to give up. In the end, she was free to do whatever she wanted, and I had done my duty. I was rather passionate about proving my point, but couldn’t let this override my professional attitude.

4- Ask for feedback. And accept it gracefully. You’ll be all the better for it.

 

And we will end this three-part series (see the first article, about quality, here) with flexibility.


1. Side note: I still occasionally whine about it. 


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