“Your Worst Customers Create Your Best Policies”, Part 1

Bespoke Hogaboom studio, Herbert Pocket & Phoenix

(kitty Herbert Pocket helping us in the studio last night!)

This is the very topic I covered last night in our WHOLE ENCHILADA lecture (we’re on week nine)!

Clumsy customers, late-paying customers, rude customers, customers who change their mind or try to change the project scope midway through – 

Yes. Yes, those are challenging behaviors for us!

But it is up to US, to build the right Policies, infrastructure, customer journey and contingency plans that allow us to deal with these issues with some grace.

I have noticed there are certain businesses that regularly complain about clients (or competitors); businesses that write very long, whiny or angry posts – businesses that are full-time martyrs. Some of them even weaponize their Followers or straight-up talk shit about competitors (100% ALWAYS a bad look).

Now some businesses – this is part of their brand. It’s a strategic voice. (If you want to know what I really think of that – well, you’ll have to wait for another blog post!)

But for most businesses who behave like this, their public airing of frustrations betrays a lack of business maturity.

Plain and simple.

And no judgment there! We all get started somewhere.

For instance: I had not one mentor within my family, to launch as a successful artpreneur. My whole family was 9-to-5. So when I got started, I made loads of mistakes. I made more mistakes than things I’ve done right. I SWEAR!

Mistakes are fine. We’ll make them no matter how much we try to avoid them.

But I don’t want you to turn into a bitter entrepreneur: overworking and bitching the whole time!

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. If we didn’t have customers, we wouldn’t have a business. We’d be working Trader Joe’s by day and bartending at night. Nothing wrong with that, but if that’s what we want to do why’d we start an entrepreneurship in the first place? So if we’re entrepreneurs, we can’t hate customers. That’s some weird-ass energy!

Our customers support us. Need I remind you they support us in our best moments, and also in our floppy, half-assed moments. Our customers support us, and so do our friends and Followers. I feel as grateful for those peeps – the friends, Followers, lovers and supporters – as I do the individuals who cross my palm with silver.

2. By definition, I am a professional and my clients need to feel they’re in good hands. The client isn’t the professional. They may arrive to the situation rude, drunk, unwashed or confused. That’s kind of the deal.

Now I’m not saying I’m required to sell to ANYONE who asks me to sell to them (because I’m not!) – but I am saying I don’t get to justify my bad (or sloppy) behavior by citing theirs.

Full-stop.

I’m the professional. The customer isn’t. I don’t have to accommodate any request or tolerate boorish behavior – but I need to be professional in my demeanor.

3. If I am regularly having shitty client experiences, then I’m either a shitty provider, or I have lax or loose Policies (or no publicly-posted Policies whatsoever), or I need to step into my power a bit and tidy up my messaging, branding, process, infrastructure, or customer care model.

Let me repeat that. A few bad apples – it happens. If it’s happening a lot – it’s on me to make a change.

Fortunately, improving on ALL the above, is not only possible – it’s fun! (Trust me!)

***

When I see an entrepreneurship make a fuss about an ill-behaved client, well sure. Maybe they’re having a bad day, or just venting.

Everyone has those moments!

But when I see entrepreneurs making a LOT of fuss about a LOT of bad clients, I know they could stand to improve their business model.

I notice that entrepreneurships that are careless, sloppy, or just focused on earning as fast as they can, soon get into trouble and this shows up in their language. They start to publicly complain about a lack of support, or talk about rude clients. On the latter count, they lapse into talking about “common sense”.

But in the realm of business, there is no “common sense”. There are Policies, expectations, contracts – and as the entrepreneur, those are within your complete control! If you haven’t put those in place, you’ve left yourself open to fuckery. You made sure it would happen by hanging your slate without putitng that infrastructure in place. It was only a matter of time before a misundertanding took place. And once misunderstanding happens between a provider and client, it can be very difficult to backtrack and repair the situation.

It can get ugly, fast

In my experience, entrepreneurs who continuously complain about clients (or entrepreneurs who have the same problems with their clients, over and over) usually have some salient issue they are avoiding. Maybe they don’t want to do their bookkeeping properly – they’re intimidated or suspicious. Maybe they’re still trying to prove Mummy or Daddy (or their ex) wrong, instead of turning inward to their OWN needs and impediments. Maybe they want to be Liked – or they want popularity, Followers or clout more than they want to run a sustainable business. Who knows!

What I can tell you is, we ALL get a crummy client now and then. If you’re getting more than one or two a year, your business model needs work.

I’m perfectly situated to help you with that. If you’re ready!

If not: well no worries!

I’ll share part two of this topic – how we can make our worst customers into an asset! – next week.

Until then!

Thanks for being here.

***

Interested in hearing more about the WHOLE ENCHILADA course? I send out emails on Mondays, gearing up for Fall’s session (registration September 1st!). You can sign up for those here.