Entrepreneur
Article

Be accessible

By Andrew Neitlich

Just a quick reminder: Be accessible, especially to clients.

There is nothing worse than trying to reach a professional with a full voice mail box or who takes more than a few hours to return a call.

Give your clients a way to reach you with requests or emergencies. They expect it.

  • http://www.rebornstudio.com optimus_prime

    I just thought I’d add that this is very true and big problem in the web design / development industry.

    I recently closed a deal with a client who started out by making a list of 50 firms and narrowed it down from there.

    Guess what? Of the 50 firms he contacted, only half actually ever responded to him!! Of those that did respond, half responded a week or two later!

    By the way, this wasn’t a miniscule job or a problem client – this guy was extremely prepared, was funded, and the project was pretty big.

  • http://nedthunkit.blogspot.com/ ikarys

    What if you’re avoiding them?
    Can we have some handy tips on NOT being available?

    ie, the clients printer doesn’t work… “Sorry sir, talk to the hand… im a professional”.

    Or the client just wants a friendly chat… u know.. those really chatty annoying types “And then she said that he was going to blah, but I told him to say that she blah blah. Hey.. and then you know what? It was like I always say blah blah”.

  • Dr Livingston

    > Just a quick reminder: Be accessible, especially to clients.

    Not when you’ve got a mountain of work to be done, and it’s their work your trying to complete, but you can’t cause you’re stuck on the phone every other week, speaking to them.

    You need time to actually work, and just to get on with it, and if you work from home, you need some down time as well, and having a client phone you up late afternoon doesn’t help.

  • busyboy

    Accessible doesn’t necessarily mean available.

    Accessible means returning emails and calls within a reasonable period, and setting “communication hours”, outside of which you’ll postpone emails, etc so you can get stuff done.

    If you’re too available, then you’re opening the door to abusing your time, your privacy, and potentially scope creep.

    I find that being responsive, and following through and keeping the client updated, makes a huge difference and builds considerable loyalty. It’s called trust, and good help is hard to find.

  • Yacker

    Hi Andrew,
    You might want to Google “Neil Balthaser” for your next post…

  • Mau

    Likewise, the same goes both ways. I worked with a client who never returned phone calls or emails, and when they did, they demanded work right away.

  • dev_cw

    Interestingly enough I DO make myself available, I always return calls promtly and will answer emails with the hour (most of the time within 30 min)…it is the clients, who believe that their time is more important than yours, who are the worst at ‘making themselves available’. I get the feeling that clients want you to be available when they need you but seldom will meke themselves available to you when you need them.

    The worst is the client that wants to meet every other day. These days I prefer to work with international clients since they don’t require meetings. On the other hand I have a client in a neighboring city that wants me to fly over to meet with him regularly, I cant do that since I will loose at least one whole day of work.

    I prefered method of communication with clients is email since you get to keep a copy for the records.

  • leelee39

    dev_cw makes an excellent point.

    I’ve flown to Singapore for a series of meetings (I’m based in the UK), only to find the key people I was supposed to talk to have decided to go on holiday / are too busy, or just want to avoid talking to me (things I get involved with generally fall on the “too difficult / can’t be bothered” pile).

    It’s frustrating, and although I’m getting paid for it, I know it’ll be me that suffers when the bill gets too big.

    Consulting would be much easier without clients…

  • http://boyohazard.net Octal

    Being accessible is definately a two-way street

  • Sojan80

    Yes but the big problem is still “How accessible should you be”? You need time for yourself, time away from your clients, etc. What if you’re off on holiday, should your clients still be able to get in touch with you?

    Andrew makes a good point in that clients expect to hear from you in a reasonable amount of time, but somewhere in all this madness you need to set some guidelines regarding access, otherwise you’ll never get any work done.

    So I am curious how you think this is best approached? Is it laid out in the contract, is it posted somewhere on your site? How, where and when shoud you go about developing these guidelines for when your customer can expect to be able to reach you?

  • http://www.vitaleffect.com Gamermk

    I find it very interesting that many of Andrew’s posts have people commenting to defend themselves because they know they are not doing what he recommends. I myself think that Andrew knows what he is talking about even if he is old school.

    I am interested though Andrew in how you deal with that “chatty” client.

  • khreative

    I strongly agree with Andrew… aren’t we annoyed when we are on the receiving end and it takes forever for the person to get in contact with us be it a phone call or email?

    p.s. if you’re going to be out of town or need some down time, send the client and email letting him or her know that you’ll be out of town in case they try to contact you and that you’ll return all calls and respond to emails when you return… you know, out of courtesy. It’s not that hard… well for me it isn’t.

  • http://www.revmedia.com dhecker

    I agree also – you have to be available. And, you can’t be ‘too’ available so that the client doesn’t get used to you responding immediately, all the time.

    My rule is: I respond to all business correspondence within one business day. It’s a sustainable pace for me and it seems to keep the clients happy. I avoid immediate responses because it’s inneficient.

  • http://www.webconxeon.com elemental70

    Yup. I hear you! I was contracted to re-do a furniture store site. This was in August of last year. It took the gent I was dealing with alomost 5 (!) months to get me pictures he wanted on the site as well as text. And then he wanted it within two weeks. This was not a small site. I came home from work one night (yep, holding down a full time skip trace night shift job) to 6 ver very irrate messages from that man’s boss. I went in next morning. explained the scope of the project and the fact that after repeated attempts to get said gent to move his butt (with respect ot deliverables and our timeline) I would put things up as fast as I could. I got the job in within 24 hours (no sleep for me) and even went so far as to do web site maintenance movies for him. The other guy was fired. And I ended up coming out of it smelling like a rose.

  • rod

    Bill hourly. If the client wants to meet every other day, charge them for your time.

  • Demex

    I agree with being available however some clients take this to the extreme and can call because they can not bebothered thinking for themselves. Due to this I bought in a policy that I charge after the first 10 minutes of a call. This also stops the “chatty” clients.

  • http://www.manisharma.s4u.org phpsharma

    As Devloper we need to be accessible to the client for your working hours. ANy way we are being paid for that.

    I think lot of people have common sense. I haven’t found any chatty clients for my past 5 years programming.

    Keep Updating the client on work will most of the time WORKS

    IF CLIENT KNOWS WHERE THE DEVELOPMENT. HE CAN PLAN the NEXT STEPS

  • http://diigital.com cranial-bore

    How do you make the transition from being accessible, to selling the business as something which doesn’t depend on you to run.
    Is there a risk that ones’ accessibility positions them as “the business” in the eyes of the client, and makes the business revolve around the individual?

  • Irini

    I loved reading this today and stumbled on you with a Google search for my problem. What is your opinion on how to handle a client who doesn’t call you back because they think their time is more valuable then yours. I have a client who can’t learn our product, but won’t call us back to learn it when we all call him.

    The other day we were blasted with all these problems they are having that we were trying to call him to do training or discuss.

    I am at a loss and consider myself very skilled and experienced at client management.

  • busyboy

    Irini,
    I had a client like this–lots of staff turnover, and the project got lost in the shuffle. I would suggest supplying documentation online with your product. Send docs to the client by email, and keep the “sent” copy as proof you did so.
    Everybody thinks their time is more valuable–that’s human nature (when was the time you really wanted to know how the grocery store cashier was doing?). We must get past that.
    I’d rather keep the ball in their court, and follow through as best I can with customer service–even if that means “standing pat” for a while the client tends to the rest of their projects. Maybe send/resend update emails once a week or so, to gently stay in front of them.
    Eventually, their attention will turn back to your project, even if they decide to discontinue it because they’re juggling too many things. At least you’ll have closure then, though how the contract is written will determine the impact on your bottom line.
    Personally, I’m learning to gauge the “togetherness” of potential clients. I ask “is this one of those people who allows their life to be hectic and frantic?”
    Hope that helps.

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