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.
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.
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.
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.
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.