It goes without saying that clients should be treated with respect and decency.
I know we strive for that, and also try to keep on top of updates even though few clients ask for them, because progress on pieces is usually interesting to owners and curators.
Being a small business owner is both a joy and harder work than anyone can imagine.
Owners often do marketing, accounting, management, make endless cups of coffee,
do the dishes, update stock and whatever specialties come with a
particular business, on top of the work we get paid to do!
There is no sick leave and in some economies, no vacations.
Of course there are perks: working together and laughing at shop cats!
Why write this?
The pandemic has made
a mess of normal activities.
New protocols due to the pandemic keep us safe from getting the disease ourselves
but also slow our work day down… even entering and leaving the studio!
We took several days to set up our studio rooms differently.
Every interaction with people who do not wear masks is stressful,
not only because we have to ask and they may be angry about that,
but also because we are at risk in those interchanges.
Literally days have been spent on one or two clients
who refused to believe the pandemic was REAL and whose feelings
and viewpoints may have become inflamed though television and talk radio.
The psychological stress of anyone who has to continue to work under these circumstances, and take deliveries and so forth is that we wonder if we were exposed.
In our case, if one of us gets the corona virus, as a two-person business
(and now with no access to some of our skilled craftspeople), we are literally sunk.
Suppliers can’t get stock which means we can’t get stock.
Suppliers may not know when stock will arrive so we can’t make plans
or tell our clients when we can return to their projects which has made
some clients think we are not good what we do (more stress)!
Then our schedules for our clients are tossed in the air.
Some suppliers are not picking up phones because of
Covid layoffs (some only have owners going in) or staggered hours, so we are often
reduced to writing emails to see if we can get what we need… that takes time!
A lot of our items are specialty so it is not like Amazon can save the day!
When we have to change schedules and delivery dates clients are not happy
and we want our clients happy: most businesses want satisfied clients.
We are not happy either as we may not be getting paid on time!
Understand the supplier’s customers are not happy and they may have had a day of frustrated sometimes angry customers and so many are short with us.
Besides adding stress, all of this adds time to each day, non-billable time
that can take 2-3 hours a day… which means projects can take much longer…
there is nothing we can do about this that is not already being done!
I am going to suggest client etiquette, some of which we are taking with our suppliers,
which would assist us and other small businesses,
and frankly, the peeps that answer the phones at Amazon or Fedex too:
- Be polite… and be generous and calm in your emotional responses. Consider that the other person may be doing the very best they can do and that there are conditions out of their control that may have caused your distress.
- Ask a business if they prefer a text message before sending it… for our purposes we do not unless we are coordinating an imminent delivery. We prefer emails because they can easily become part of a client file and we can see images much better than doing business on a credit card sized screen.
- Assume that a business has a reason for their protocol, i.e., we ask for full contact information before engaging our time in estimates and other time consuming dialogues. If you ask we would be happy to tell you why. We ask for full name, address, phone number, email, if the person contacting us is the owner, and best time to call. Perhaps you live on the other side of the country and we might recommend another conservator. We do not sell client information, but if someone is not willing to give us that information then probably they are not very serious about doing business with us and will likely waste our time.
- Read emails thoroughly and answer ALL questions, which keeps us from having to delay a proper respobnse because we’ve had to ask for the same info several times… We know everyone is not operating at full capacity as the pandemic stresses everyone, so it is important to slow down and read important communications. We never send spam so if we write you, it is important to read and answer!
- Finally, work with the delays, understanding that delays usually mean in businesses such as ours that we can’t do better than we are doing and that we are also not getting paid if the projects are not completed, meaning we have a vested interest in completion!