Blog Post

Being Accessible

If you’re an independent web worker, one of your selling points is probably that you’re readily accessible to your customers. Many of us can be contacted by an almost embarassing variety of ways: multiple email accounts, multiple phone numbers, contact forms on our web sites, Get Satisfaction accounts, instant messenger accounts, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and (as a last resort) even snail mail. But if you think that having multiple points of contact is enough – think again.

Particularly when working with less-web-savvy customers, I’ve found two extra steps help set my service apart. First, make it clear to your customers what the best way to contact you is, for routine communication or for emergencies. Something like “I always read my email within a day, but if something’s important use my cell phone number” will help avoid overwhelming people with choices they don’t quite understand. Second, go where your customers are, rather than making them come to you. For example, if a new client is used to AIM, get yourself an AIM account, rather than forcing them to switch to GTalk. A little of this sort of service will be remembered for a long time.

What do you do to be memorably available to your customers?

4 Responses to “Being Accessible”

  1. I’m with Gary. I think it’s important for independent workers to configure their businesses such that they can control access. One of the main draws of being a Web worker is precisely that you don’t have to be tied to the desk, phone, computer!

  2. That is until your family starts suffering for always being put on hold,

    While full access might always seem wonderful in the beginning stages with only a few clients. As you grow to 100 or more it will be the death of your dreams.

    It is laughable how many of my clients don’t understand the difference between “routine” and “emergency”. Everything is an emergency to them. And if they find out you know something about boats, they will be calling you for all of their boat maintenance issues also.

    The communication grows into things that are not part of your business…but with full access you become the “always there” path of least resistance in their life. I even have people call me in an “emergency” to look up a store address, or movie time while they’re on the road. They know I’m at a computer almost all the time.

    I know it sounds like I’m encouraging poor customer service. But, from experience customers are not able to decipher what is worth getting you up in the middle of the night.

    I would say it’s more a matter of full access with built-in, automated restrictions and filtering. PERCEIVABLY accessible. But be careful!

  3. Great topic Mike! I absolutely agree with your points, especially about accommodating what your clients already use. I’m always amazed at those who want to make their clients change programs. As the service provider, I believe it’s my job to make working with me as simple as possible. So whatever IM program, email program or form of communication my client prefers, that’s the one I’ll use. I have one client who prefers to text message back and forth. It’s not my preference and I incur texting charges for it, the bottom line is that it makes life easier for my client. Of course, I’ll make recommendations to improve their productivity, but in the end, “the customer is always right”!

    Another way I’m memorably available to my clients is to make sure I respond quickly in unusual or emergency circumstances – even after hours or on weekends. When my client’s flight was found to be mysteriously non-existent on a Sunday evening, I delayed a family dinner out in order to get on the phone and straighten everything out with the airline. My clients know that while I may not always be available after hours, they appreciate knowing that I’ll go the extra mile when the circumstances demand.