Stop Making Fun of Non-Technical Clients Behind their Back
Written by Nathan T. Baker and published
How often do you hear someone making fun of their clients? It irks me.
I don’t hear it every day, but I do hear it. Usually, it’s related to a client not understanding some technology. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been guilty of earning a quick laugh at a client’s expense, but please call me out if you hear me doing it again.
When someone pays you money for a service, one of the things they are paying for is professionalism. It’s unprofessional to make fun of someone for something they don’t understand. Period.
You Aren’t So Smart
Just because someone doesn’t know as much as you in one area doesn’t mean they are inept in all areas. Maybe it takes some extra time explaining the concept of SEO and how you’re using different SEO tools. But, aren’t you equally useless in other areas?
You should tag along when I get an oil change. When the service person comes in to explain the state of my car, I put on my best “I know what’s up” face, but I’m not fooling anyone. After a master mechanic talks to me for two minutes, they quickly learn I don’t know much about my car.
Everyone is talented in different areas. When you’re dealing with a client possessing little or no technical knowledge, find a topic he or she excels at. Remember, your client is an expert at something. Knowing your client’s superpower will help you to respect them when you’re having a hard time relating to them.
Plus, if you know a client’s strengths, you can build them up when they are having a hard time learning. If a client says “You should give up on me. I’ll never understand this,” you can say, “Hey, I’ll never understand cars to the degree you do, but I’ve picked up a little. It’s awesome what you’ve picked up so far!”
Learn How to Vent
Now, there’s is a fine line between making fun of someone and venting. You can vent your frustration about someone without belittling him or her.
If your client’s lack of understanding frustrates you, first deal with the physical stress this tension creates. Release it in a healthy way. Take a walk, punch an evil squirrel, and then come back and figure out a path forward.
When you can talk without lashing out, remember to speak with empathy. Find out how to frame the issue from your client’s perspective. Here’s an example.
BAD: “I just wasted 15 minutes of my life because my loser client couldn’t figure out how to open an attachment. If he were any less intelligent, we’d have to water him three times a week.”
GOOD: “I’m frustrated, and I’m sure Frankie is frustrated as well. Our conversation got derailed, and we spent 15 minutes troubleshooting how to open that Word document rather than talking strategy. I’m going to try sending that report as a PDF to see if that’s a better, long term solution.”
You don’t necessarily have to like your client, but imagine their perspective. Think of a non-technical client as an older relative. If you’re on the phone with your grandfather, you want what is best for him. It’s not his fault he never mastered the computer or was taught how the Internet works.
Find the Path Forward
Empathy and having a genuine desire to help are two keys to head off any bitterness, but there are limits to a person’s patience. After all, you’re running a business, not a charity. You can’t spend all day fixing a client’s printer just because they asked. That’s not your job. Your work should have a scope. So where do you draw the line?
First, make sure a larger issue doesn’t exist. Ask yourself if your client is your ideal customer. If not, have you positioned your marketing agency in a way that is attracting clients who want to succeed online? If a project isn’t a good fit and requires services you don’t excel at, you may need to pass up the business.
On the other hand, if you’ve determined together that you’re a good fit, then part of your job is to educate your client. Include that time when scoping out the initial project. That way you won’t start feeling resentful when the same technical issues keep coming up.
For example, email templates can be a real pain often requiring the skills of a front-end developer to customize. If you know this is a marketing need, include it in your marketing proposal. As an added benefit, you can report on email metrics directly through Raven. We integrate with five of the most popular email marketing services, using the email metrics tool.
When a client needs help understanding a concept related to your marketing work, be proactive and pass along resources that will educate in different ways, such as video and visuals. Focus on teaching concepts specifically tied to the project you’re working on.
Remember, it’s easier to keep an existing client than it to attract a new one. Once you’ve developed a certain level of trust, your client will start to take your word that something you say is important, and you’ll spend less time educating and more time creating value.