Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Exacting Client

Did you ever have a client or a customer that was just too darn hard to do business with?

I was surveying a number of VA’s recently on whether they have ever turned down a client or refused to do business with someone because of their attitude.  I was rather surprised to find that all of them had, without exception, turned work away at least once because they thought a client would be too difficult to work for. I was a little shocked as I thought the response would be fairly mixed.  One VA commented, “When I worked for someone else I was always obliged to put up with the crap some customers or managers put us through, but now that I work for myself I consider it a perk that I no longer have to put up with that”.  I have to admit that I have done the same thing on occasion.  After all when there are so many nice and dynamic people in the world why waste your time with the ones that set out to make life difficult, right?

Please don’t mistake my attitude for complacency.  I was always the first person to put my hand up to work for the “difficult” boss.  Nine times out of ten, I found the “difficult” boss wasn’t difficult at all, simply exacting and a little more discerning than most.  I usually found once I’d proved myself and stunned them with my usual efficiency, all was smooth sailing after that and a relationship of mutual respect developed.  I’m pretty exacting myself and a mutual appreciation for “getting it right” usually cemented the bond.  Some of my best working references were supplied by bosses everyone else had found difficult.

However,  in the realm of self employment I have made snap decisions when taking a call from a brand new client on whether we are going to have a harmonious and happy working relationship.  I work hard for my dollars and I certainly don’t want anyone to make it harder than it has to be.  To make that judgment call in a 30 second phone call relies on my experience, my emotional intelligence and old fashioned gut feeling.  One VA told me when she guesses that the client on the end of the phone is going to be hard work she adds a “difficult” premium to her usual rate.  “I jack up my rate in the hope they will go somewhere else and then if they still end up hiring me, I console myself with the thought that I am being well paid.”    I’d love to survey some of my clients and ask if they have also come across clients in their respective fields that are too difficult to do business with and how they handle it. 

I have a theory that the perception of the “difficult” client all boils down to personality and how well we fit and connect with other people.  What one person finds acceptable, another may not and like magnets we are attracted by personality traits in some people and repelled by others.  What one VA may perceive as difficult another may find perfectly ok.

Most VA’s have come from an EA or PA background where the relationship between a manager and his assistant is a lot like a working marriage of sorts.  You have to “get” or understand each other or the relationship won’t work.  Most EA’s can tell you what their boss is thinking just by their body language.

I think this characteristic sticks with you as a VA and for most VA’s if they don’t feel the spark of a working relationship right from the start, the connection is perceived as not working.

A Virtual Assistant and self employment is a lifestyle choice and one question I constantly ask myself is am I happy doing what I am doing?  I most certainly am and it boils down to the fact that I enjoy the people I work with.  I should do…. I chose them.

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