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Monday, August 14, 2006

I don't like Mondays...Tell me why...Customer services requires sacrifice...

For those of you who picked up on the Boomtown Rats lyrics in the post title, don't worry. The silicon chip inside my head has not been switched to overload and I have no plans to "shoot the whole day down." However, this particular Monday has been tough, and I thought I would share some insights I've gained while dragging myself through the day thus far...

I committed what every freelancer should consider a cardinal sin. I overbooked. That's right, I allowed my workload to exceed available time. Ouch.

That's not an uncommon problem for folks in my line of work. It happens. I try not to let it happen, but this time it did. It's frustrating, because I am almost positive that had I quoted later dates for project completion, most of the clients who are on my current to-do list would probably have been amenable to a longer turnaround time.

However, a deal is a deal. Content Done Better offers an on-time guarantee. If I don't meet a deadline, the client doesn't pay another dime for the work. I don't play around with deadlines and I implemented that policy as a way of reinforcing my committment to getting the job done, as scheduled.

That's a great marketing strategy, by the way. My clients appreciate the security it provides and it lets them know they are not messing around with a careless provider. However, if I make a mistake, my particular brand of customer service requires some sacrifice on my end. Nobody, including me, likes to do that.

So, I had to pull up the schedule, take a long hard look at the next two weeks and shuffle things to make sure all would get done as quickly as possible while causing the least amount of disruption and inconvenience to my clients. That's not fun.

Then, I had to contact each of the clients who might experience a delay and explain the situation. I had to waive all costs for any late work. That's not fun, either.

I take my work seriously and am a nut about customer satisfaction, so I then felt the need to take an additional step. I offered anyone who would experience a delay a bonus of some sort in compensation for their understanding. Again, not fun.

So far, the response has been tremendous. My clients understand the situation and appreciate my willingness to be forthright about the situation. They have all agreed to my re-scheduling and have expressed their commendation for the professional way in which delays are being handled.

I deal with a lot of buyers who have had bad experiences in the past. They have been burned by freelance writers who served up copied garbage, horrible writing, or who just never seemed to be able to get around to turning in the work. I find that kind of thing reprehensible and it's one reason why I can get so fanatical about doing things the right way.

Obviously, I didn't do the right thing when I scheduled the first half of August. However, I do believe that the follow-up customer service in handling the error will work out for all involved.

So, maybe it'll have a happy ending for everyone and every thing (other than my bank account balance). Nonetheless, at the moment, I still hate Mondays...