It’s your job to know

Honestly, what would you do?  I was floored.  Last week, I wrote about my less-than-ideal experience with a makeup artist which lead me to think about whether entrepreneurs care about their clients or not.  Undaunted, I scheduled another makeup session along with a photoshoot so I could update both my profile picture and have some new graphics for this site.

Where it all began

So, here’s the back-story.  I decided to give the site and myself a makeover.  The site has evolved so much it needed a fresh look, and frankly, I think profile pictures older than 3 years are kinda fishy.  I really don’t like having my picture taken but I figured go with it.   I researched and found, let’s call him Frank, who had loads of good reviews on Yelp and was offering a Living Social Deal (that shoulda been my 1st clue of impending doom).

You turned me off at hello

People tell you who they are.  It’s true.  One way or another, straight out or indirectly, we always tell other people what they need to know about us.  Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not, but always it’s something to pay attention to. Back Off

So for instance, if you have a client who frequently exclaims I can’t get organized; I just don’t think that way, you have been warned.  Frank told me right from the start he was more interested in him than me.  How?

I arrived 20 minutes early because I hate to be late and waste someone’s time.  Franks first words were:

Eh, aren’t you supposed to be here at 3:30?

Eh, where’s the hello, my name is… What a warm welcome and friendly introduction to Frank and his studio I got, huh? Maybe I’m too difficult, as my friend Tracey says, but is it too much to be greeted and acknowledged with some care?  I don’t think so.

Wait, it gets worse. There was another woman in the studio who immediately joined our conversation about parking and acted like a client.  It wasn’t clear if I’d interrupted a photo-shoot in session or who the woman was.   I had that what-have-I-walked-into feeling. Can you say awkward?  No introduction at all. (I later learned she was his office mate who met her eyebrow waxing clients at the same time as Frank gives makeup lessons or shoots a client- again very awkward)

You know the old expression: You only get one chance to  make a first impression?  How are you doing?  Are you neglecting the basic courtesies? What are you doing to make your client experience memorable and special?

What business are you in?

Now anyone can have a bad day or be distracted when a client calls or comes by, but I didn’t get the feeling from Frank that he was stressed.  Instead, I got the feeling that I’d experienced his usual on-boarding process, which is none.    That’s too bad because it tells me two things about Frank.

 He doesn’t understand his client’s feelings.


You and I are a jumble of emotions at any given moment. Just recognizing that is half the battle and allows you to step past some of your negative thoughts or reactions.  My first thought is: maybe they are going through some (emotion) and don’t know how to handle it, which activates my compassion.  Lord knows, I’ve been there before.

For service providers, it’s important to think out all the emotions your clients have about working with you. Yes, they’ll be filled with excitement, anticipation and wonder (you’re that good ;) ).  But there’s also anxiety, doubt, uncertainty, annoyance.   I’m a pretty confidenct chick but even I have mixed feelings about getting makeup done. I felt vulnerable.  Worse, I felt like I’d done something wrong when Frank said dark pigment (skin) is difficult to work with. 

Obviously, I worried Frank.  Being transparent is the answer.  You can share you concern with clients if you can do it in a positive way.  Often times, we tend to maximize trouble like Frank did earlier.  Instead, he   could’ve said something collaborative and reassuring like:

-Gosh, this is my [blank] time working with a woman of color.  Are you ok with us figuring this out together?

- Gosh, this is new to me. I’m excited to work with you and discover what’s really great for your skin tone. 

-Gosh, I have someone who would be perfect to work with you; she specializes in women of color.


He doesn’t know what business he’s in.

clownThere’s a lot of talk about finding your market but less talk about what business you’re in.  It’s likely not the one you think you’re in.

Years ago when I was a maverick mediator with a very active practice, I spoke about how my business grew so fast to other mediators.  It wasn’t magic.  I realized that I wasn’t really in the mediation business.  I was in the peace of mind business.  That’s the result clients worked with me to achieve- a sense of calm, relief and certainty about the next step.

That informed the way I marketed my business but also how I treated my clients from the get go.  I did everything possible to reassure them about the mediation process, participating, outcomes, their abilities, solution rates BEFORE we met for a session.   Both sides came to the table with confidence that they could handle the discussion and I’d be there to help if things went sideways.

Frank didn’t know he was in the fantasy and pampering business. He’s in the empowerment business.  I met a terrific photographer, Fizzahraza, whose entire business is photographing women so they look and feel confident.

It’s your job to know

This is my third maxim.  It’s your job to know.  Not everything, smart alec.  It’s your job to know how your clients feel about doing their project or getting the service and speak to that in how you onboard them into your business.  Don’t know?  Just ask.  A simple, how are you feeling about all this is a broad question that should net you answers.

It’s your job to understand what business you are really in.  If you’re a virtual assistant, I’d say you’re in the efficiency, productivity and peace of mind business.  Maybe you’d say you’re in the growth business.  You get to decide.  Me, I’m in the joy business. :)

Two questions

If you were me, would you tell Frank about your bad client experience or give him a pass?

What business are you in?



The universe is interesting.  The day after the shoot I got an email  from Frank explaining that he’d viewed the pictures and wanted to reshoot. Today, we talked and I shared my experience with him.  He was surprised.  He’s experienced us as having a good rapport and said no one had ever complained before.  His comments about my pigment were meant to characterize the makeup available, he explained.  Bottom line, Frank heard the feedback well and graciously offered me a refund without my having to ask.  We parted ways amicably with well wishes all around.

What did I say?

I told him that from one entrepreneur to another, it felt important to give him the feedback. (I did not coach him, although it was hard to resist).  Then, I used the strategies I share in the Mend it Retreat to easily move through the conversation without heated emotions or misunderstandings:

  • shared my experience as an observation that’s part of a bigger puzzle (I felt hurt when you said….)
  • asked  him for his observations (how was it for you?)
  • explored the intention and impact of the words he used
  • re-assessed our relationship (won’t work together again)
  • agreed on next steps ( he’d give me a refund)

After chatting for a bit more, Frank said he thought because I didn’t have an ‘angry vibe’ things were fine.  Lesson to the wise: silence doesn’t  equal happy. 

So there you have it.  Let me know what you think in the comments, please.

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Leave A Reply (8 comments so far)

  1. Dina Eisenberg
    4 years ago

    What great conversation. Our natural tendency is to think the world is as we think it should be. We’re kinda like horses with blinders on. Just knowing to look beyond and doing that if a huge leap in emotional intelligence and a start toward a very happy business life.

    Understanding more about conflict styles and approaches issoooo helpful. Quiet clients and colleagues have a TON to offer, if you can engage them in a way that feels good. Poor Frank assumed that I was happy because I was quiet. Better to simply has, how ya doing?

    Im so thrilled at the conversation. Someone will see a way out of a tough situation and be healed thanks to you guys

  2. Karen Christian
    4 years ago

    Funny you mention insurance Cheryl. Yesterday I bought a liability policy over the phone and I was a first time customer. The service I received was excellent and I bought the policy on the spot without getting any other quotes. The lady/sales rep also has two little boys and we were giggling about the trials and tribulations of school holidays and little boys.

    On the other side of the coin, I have worked on the front line for an insurance company and the unwritten policy was that the irate and very noisy customers always got the red carpet treatment. It’s not fair but the company was more afraid of bad publicity than they were about the client. So the nice and quiet customers only ever received standard treatment.

    My point is that the active client (positive or negative) receives the best service while the quiet ones tend to be ignored. I think it is our job as small business owners to be aware of our quieter clients as well as our higher maintenance ones. The quiet clients are the ones that will leave your business and tell their friends and families about their experiences (good and bad).

    JudyAnn raised a good point about small or solo business people subconsciously expecting our clients to read our minds. We can get so caught up in our own business and world that it’s easy to forget that our clients are travelling in their own worlds. It is up to us as business owners to be constantly mindful of our clients and their needs which leads back to Dina’s original point of empathy. It’s actually a hard trait to master because our natural tendency is to be selfish. You know, hunter/gatherer days and all that biological stuff. :-)

  3. JudyAnn Lorenz
    4 years ago

    Thank you for this thoughtful series. I’m first interested in ‘how I treat’, then how I am treated and your points are reminders. Some are right in place and others are good lessons.

    I am a person who thrives on solitude. I sometimes expect people to be on the same wave-length and they feel they are being expected to read a mind.

    Cheryl, I love your story of successful negotiation.

  4. Cheryl
    4 years ago

    *snicker* maybe they cancelled it because it was not worth the effort to deal with me, but I choose to believe that they saw the reasoning based on their own policies and standards.

  5. Cheryl
    4 years ago

    Recently my hubby had an interaction with an large insurance company, as there was a misunderstanding on the cancellation policy. I was listening to the phone call and their first response was they would send it to a collection agency; and he was getting angry.

    I stopped the conversation and got on the phone. I began to work with the customer service rep. and he agreed that negotiation was better than his first response. Just for a little background we are talking about a few dollars that they claimed existed, and from our viewpoint there was no fees outstanding. It was agreed that I would fax a letter. A little investigation on their website to review their standards and ethics, a few calls to different agencies, and I wrote my letter explaining my viewpoint.

    The result was they cancelled the fee, because it was the right thing to do. The lesson: sometimes we have to remind a business what their own policies are and how things should be handled. How we choose to do it does make the difference.

    I have been following Dina for a while and truly believe she has the stuff to help others work through the difficulties. Things are so much easier when we have the skills to deal with issues.

  6. Dina Eisenberg
    4 years ago

    Karen, what an interesting point about first-timers. There’s a kind of ‘wait and see’ approach that says *im not wasting my best stuff on you til I know you’re staying around’ . How contrary is that?
    I notice the same mentality with the whole Groupon/Living Social thing. I feel a blog post coming on.

    Joe, you are so right. It is definitely about what I call loving your clients. For me, it’s a tricky dance between their needs & mine, Jerry Mcquire comes to mind… Help me, help you.

    Thanks for moving by. Bring all your friends ;)

  7. Karen Christian
    4 years ago

    Unfortunately in Australia we are renowned for our poor customer service and even though we are getting better at it but most of us don’t really notice it. We seem to have the odd behaviour that good rapport and quality service starts to kick in with regular clients. This is especially true in the fashion/hairdressing/beauty industry and cafes. Sure the customer service is there and I end up with great hair, a beautiful dress or yummy coffee but the personal touch only really starts when the business owner gets to know you.

    As a consumer I’m naturally a chatty person and can quickly strike up a happy relationship but I shouldn’t have to be the instigator.

    As a new business owner I can now see how bad customer service really is and your article has really set off a few ideas that those bad experiences can be turned into opportunities.

  8. Joe
    4 years ago

    Loved this article! My business is all about helping people. It shouldn’t matter what your product or service is, it really is about making/keeping your client/customer happy!
    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I hope it can help others too!

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