After we sold our SaaS product, LessAccounting.com, we returned back to client services for the first time in many years. We’re back building software for clients…the client projects are creating familiar problems.
We’ve been reminded client services is a different beast, because your team must have additional soft-skills which aren’t quite as important in a very small product team like we had previously with LessAccounting.
If you want low stress, here’s a few qualities a successful client service team must have. Notice I said “low stress”, yes you can operate a highly profitable consultancy with poor soft-skills but the stress will be high.
I’ll also add, we’re by no means successfully running a low stress company. We’re getting better, but change is slow and hard. I’ll also add I’m not a perfect being either, I’m a work in progress as well.
Each member of a client services team must know how to set an expectation with their team members/clients and then deliver on that expectation. I’ve always called this skill “CYA”, covering your ass.
Covering Your Ass means getting the simple things right. My football coach in high school would say “don’t mess up the simple things”, like don’t show up late, don’t forget the snap count and don’t be disliked by your teammates. Designing is hard, writing software working on all devices is hard. But estimating tasks, explaining difficulties, priorities and options to clients is the easy stuff, it’s realizing each of us answers to someone…a client, a boss, a spouse, a project manager and how can I help others in the loop so they can worry less.
We, including me, have a tendency to use written words like email, slack and text too often..especially when tone is important. Avoid written communication when giving feedback to coworkers. My rule, any slack message longer than two sentences should be a video chat conversation. I find a lot of my communication with team members are asynchronous so I love using screencast videos to relay tone when I’m trying to explain a thought.
I’m tired of everyone pretending they’re an artist because I’m not and you’re not. Yes your clients are paying for your expertise, but your job is to inform them of their choices, suggest/recommend and let them decide. They’re paying you to help them but they’re paying for a collaboration. Let’s stop pretending any of us working in pixels is Michelangelo because we’re not. The arrogance of our industry is gross, be humble, do good work, fire bad clients, but let’s not pretend our craft is art.
Repeat after me “if a client asks for changes, they’re not trying to insult me.”
99% of clients don’t want to make your job harder than it is. But most want a collaborative experience, they’re not trying to insult your “art”. It’s easy, even for me, to feel defensive with a client when I feel they’re making my job overly difficult. Because 99.9% of clients are good decent, kind people. Yes they’re paying you, in most cases, to collaborate.
Real most people want to be good client, they even think they’re being good even when you think they’re terrible. It’s your job to teach them the best way to work, communicate and collaborate
We’re in an industry of divas…you can skip college, jump into a tech job, get flirted with by tech recruiters and suddenly everyone thinks they’re poo doesn’t stink.
My football coaches would say “Why didn’t you get your block?” and as you’d start to give them a BS excuse they’d cut you off and say “shut the fuck up and do your job”. So that’s what I did, I shut up, stop making excuses and got my job done.
A person with a victim’s mentality will not be able to do this, they’ll never be able to just get their job done without causing toxicity. I’m a caring person (at least I think I am) but I’m tired of all the excuses everyone thinks they’re allotted in life. Do your job or get out of the way.
Rarely in life will you find a villain, a truly slimy person looking to take advantage of you. Your clients, who pay your bills, probably are not the villain. They actually picked you to work with, so they probably actually really like you. Your boss probably isn’t the villain either. A person with a victim’s mentality think everyone is the villain of their lives.
People with a victim’s mentality will ruin a team. Toxicity is subtile. It can trickle down from the top or bubble up from a team. It snakes its way into emails conversations & slack messages. Toxicity breeds discontentment…it sounds like “yeah these stupid changes the client wants”…any animosity should quickly be snuffed out.
Communication is hard, you can over communicate and make the people around you feel micromanaged or overwhelm them. You can call too many meetings or not enough meetings, it’s Goldilocks effect.
These soft-skills are so important, often overlooked and very hard to interview/test for. They show up slowly and are spotted in highsight when stress hits a new level 10 amount. As a business owner, you’ll find yourself thinking “where did I go wrong?”
If you wanted it to build a product you’d find a way to get time to work on it. If you really wanted to start that new hobby you’d sacrifice something to find the time and money to do it.
I'll define a "Wannabe Entrepreneur" as someone who has never made money from their businesses. Here are the different types of wannabes.
In the past few years I've built go-carts, built a 200+ sq ft workshop, written several eBooks. How do I create a life where I have time to work on side projects?
Receive 4 Steps that will help your business become stronger.