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  1. #1
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    Notice: This is a discussion thread for comments about the SitePoint article, Learn to Love Complaining Clients.
    __________

    The entire premise of this article shows some lack of understanding of the industry. Because the vast majority of web design projects are done on a fixed-price basis, and pricing is very competitive, chronic complainers signficiantly reduce profitability. More often than not, the types of complaints originating from this type of client are based only in their need to feel like they're getting a deal, i.e. they want to make you work more for your money. This backwards psychology is typical of the small businessman.

    There are many clients - largely comprised of small businesses - whose complaints are not valuable. These are complaints that cost small web design shops money. You may not have such clients. If you can pick and choose, and charge hourly for your services, more power to you, but there are multitudes of web designers (the ones reading your column for advice) who don't have the same luxury, and your advice is costing them money.

    My 2 cents. :)

  2. #2
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    This is nice post! Pretty good idea.

  3. #3
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    Even though I don't like the WAY some people complain, I have learned that I need to listen, because they are telling me how to improve my business, or showing me an area where the process of doing business could be improved.

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    SitePoint Wizard jimbo_dk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dvduval View Post
    Even though I don't like the WAY some people complain, I have learned that I need to listen, because they are telling me how to improve my business, or showing me an area where the process of doing business could be improved.
    Yups, that's what I've learnt as well. Ultimately it boils down to the fact that clients are the lifeblood of the business. Although you don't give in to every complaint, it's good both ways to listen.
    Winners Respond. Losers React.
    Singapore Web Designer

  5. #5
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    A good complaint:

    "I think you can offer a little more value for the price you charge by doing x, y, or z."

    A bad complaint:

    "You charge too much, build my site for $10/hour"

    I'm more than happy to deal with constructive criticism and I agree with Brendan that clients who can offer this to you can become very good customers, but the second type of complaint should still set off alarms in your head.

  6. #6
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    I think, the most important point of the article is, "what if the complaint has not reached you". You would have not only to solve the problem or even to calm down the situation and bad words would fly around.

    Sometimes it is much better just to say "I am not able to do it", return money and go ahead, without going into too much dispute.

    I really prefer to get complain directly, even just to get chance to say "sorry" or try to explain, why I perhaps could be right.

    Not small business owners are problematic, problem is in a type of personalities, who can not decide, but try to demand to cover lack of decision. It is closer to psychology, than business.

    Here comes question of selecting customers BEFORE coming into agreement. Here comes also very true truth, that good customers come to those who do not desperately seek for orders. I do not know why, but it is true... How to deal with it? I have no other idea, than reading about marketing and implementing best ideas. Especially it is important, if you have no money.

    Good Luck :-)
    Basia

  7. #7
    Tom K.
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    "After all, if we don't give them what they paid for, we shouldn't be paid. Simple!" That's a very nice concept, but I doubt there are enough people out there who agree or much less, put it into implementation.

    i don't know many service providers who would actively seek out complaints like you've illustrated. 'Ask specifically for a complaint: "Luis, we strive to provide the absolute best service we can. Can you think of any particular instance when you've thought an area of our service hasn't been absolutely satisfactory? I'd love to know how we haven't been perfect for you, because I want to make it right. We're trying to build a decent business here and this sort of feedback helps us to provide the absolute best in client service." ' It seems like something right out of 'It's A Wonderful World'.

    I do however, agree with the basic theme of this article - an increased reliance on customer support.

    "...but it's certainly the right strategy for me at this point in my business." Exactly. The key problem I found with this article, is that it says nothing for startups and rising entrepreneurs, who can't really afford to push people away. To that effect, I found this article more informative and effective: http://beta.resourcepad.com/articles/Customer_Services__Support_Getting_It_Right/54

  8. #8
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    I think this article is a great topic. A couple more points:
    1. Many people don't complain, and simply choose not to buy, so listening to the complainers will give you some idea of what people in general find wrong with your site or product.
    2. It is good to look for patterns. If you get a lot of the same complaint, that should be telling you something.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Enthusiast Brendon S's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback

    Again transio, your comments make no sense to me.

    Every single complaint you get is hugely valuable. It shows you where the client perceives your weaknesses and, most importantly, allows you to rectify as issue to the satisfaction of the client.

    Word of mouth is the most trusted source of advertising.

    50% of our new clients are referred from existing clients.

    One of our biggest clients - who I mentioned in the first edition of the kit - has become a huge client because of us ensuring his satisfaction when we completed his initial project.

    We asked what he'd give us out of 10 (10 being perfect). He said 8. We asked him the issues he saw as not being great, addressed them and got a 10.

    He then referred us a ton of work. In the hundreds of thousands. (It's a corny story but true.)

    It's simply not about complaints. It's about delivering a perceived high quality service to encourage others to recommend you to others.

    Complaints don't cost you money.
    Not knowing about complaints will cost you money.
    Ignoring complaints will cost you money.

    Actively seek out complaints. Delight the complainer.
    Instead of having an angry customer, you have a delighted customer.

    Remember, word of mouth is the best/cheapest/most powerful form of advertising.

    Happy customers tell others.
    A referred customer will spend more with you, take less time, be easier to deal with and be far more profitable.

  10. #10
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    Hi Brendon,

    Transio is my company's name. You can call me Steve. I think you're missing my point. I agree that feedback is valuable in improving your business, but complaints are not always valuable.

    Let's dissect two types of complaints by example:
    1. "You're doing good work, but consistently underestimate the required effort, and as a result, you're costing us money."

      This is an actual complaint we got from a customer. It tells me that we have to improve our accuracy in estimating development time. Since the customer is paying us time and materials, it's important that we are accurate with their estimates. This is a very valuable complaint, as it allows us to improve our business.

    2. "I don't like the way this (Flash) site works. Let's redo it as a static site."

      This is another complaint we got from a different client, who paid us a fixed price to create them a Flash site similar to chipotle.com. We went above and beyond and met all of their objectives, and after 4 months, the client complained that it was not what he expected and that he wanted us to redo it as an HTML site at no additional cost. This is the type of complaint that will kill small web design shops. Fortunately, we worked things out with the client and made the site work to their liking while retaining the 100% Flash interface, but had we followed your advice, we would have incurred a significant loss based only on a fickle client's whim.


    I think you get my point. You have to learn to pick out the valuable complaints and which complaints have nothing to do with you. In example #2 above, we did nothing wrong. The client simply changed his mind half way through the project and didn't want to pay for it.

  11. #11
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    Having read many of Brendon's articles, I think he's writing from the perspective of someone who has a rather robust and effective client filtering process. In fact, I think all of the precesses in Brendon's shop are constantly analyzed and made incrementally better - he typically has fantastic advice.

    However, a lot of us just aren't there yet and every so often we let the sneaky client slip though the gates and we get burned. The client who wants something for nothing, who is never satisfied, who threatens to withhold a final deposit, who changes the scope radically several times throughout the project. It's all about processes and mature processes come with time and some success. It's hard to focus on improving processes when you can barely keep the lights on. Anyway, I've been there and it's painful so I know where Steve's coming from but I can see a lot of value in Brendon's article.
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