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Thread: Stepping back from the front line

  1. #1
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    I'm under the impression that sometimes, customers ask for changes completely aware that I'm the owner/operator of the company - and expect a lot more simply because I run the place. Everything becomes a personal favor, to the point that it's difficult to say no, but you really, really want to. Like, I'm the sounding wall for their newly-inspired design career or something like that.

    Do you guys think that if I (or anyone in the same position) was to take a step back, hire a body or two to take over the design and with it, the direct customer contact, the customer would ask for fewer changes and 'favors', knowing that the hired designer would have to get 'approval' for the changes?

    Do you think this would get the results I'm after?


  2. #2
    curmudgeon swampy's Avatar
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    You'd be better off hiring someone to handle the whole customer interface full stop. Someone to meet and talk to customers through which all contact is made.

    That way the customer only hassles someone whose job it is to be hassled and to negotiate.

    this leaves you / designers / programmers free to get on with what you do best.

  3. #3
    Old Member gecko2's Avatar
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    We have someone called a 'project co-ordinator' who liases with both the client and the designers and developers, he's the middle man who deals with the clients full stop. It's better to have only one person who the client speaks to, as opposed to different people saying different things to the client. That's when jobs can get messy.

  4. #4
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    No matter who you are (Owner, sales rep, etc.), if the client feels that he can ask for favors from you, then he'll do it. Setting a presedence is very important. If he's trying to slip something in that is clearly out of scope or could push a deadline back, the client needs to be made aware that is what he's doing.

    I've found that I can nip situations like this in the bud by telling the client what his "favor" is going to cost.

    Client says, "I know that the project is nearly done, but I was thinking that the interface needs a little..."

    I say, "I see what you're saying. And even though I agree with you, we need to think about several things: 1. This will definitely push the deadline further back and 2. We're going to have to charge extra..."

    So far, the typical reaction is just "Oh, forget it." or "Alright, how much?"

    hurricaneone, you might also want to explain to the client that even though you are the owner, the reason the company does so well is because its sticks to a process/plan that ensures projects are done in budget and on time. If someone (even you) were to interrupt that process, then the deadline, budget, etc. are put in jepordy.

    Hope this helps. Let me know what you think.

    -scott

  5. #5
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    I drafted this up without reading Scott's piece - I'll answer that in another post - Cheers

    Sure, I appreciate what you're saying, but what I'm trying to do is reduce the input of the customer, not just deflect the cusomer contact.

    You see, I'm basically fed up with sinking everything I've got into a piece and then leaving it with the customer, just to sit in anticipation of the list of changes they 'recommend'. Inevitably, the changes are of a basic, non-substantial nature, and I freak out, if only because I've put the best out that I can and now these hacks want to have a go at design 101.

    I just think that if the design guy who produces the piece is simply working for the company - not the owner of the company - there'd be less customer-perceived flexibility in the product.

    You know, I was thinking of something the other day. Sites are, to me, an art form. But unlike any other art, sites ruin the artist-to-art relationship. This is because in any other medium, a piece is done when the artist says it is, whether the commissioner of the piece likes it or not. With sites, the artist might say it's done, but in reality, we're not done until the commissioner gets what they want, ugly and contemptuous as their brainchild may be.

  6. #6
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    Originally posted by nocrapchurch
    No matter who you are (Owner, sales rep, etc.), if the client feels that he can ask for favors from you, then he'll do it. Setting a presedence is very important. If he's trying to slip something in that is clearly out of scope or could push a deadline back, the client needs to be made aware that is what he's doing.
    Ah, you see though, a lot of designers are going to look at the posts I've put up so far in this thread and say that I'm basically trying to head the customer off at the pass - disallow any criticism of the work.

    Now, rather than this, I'm trying to filter the criticism to that which counts, rather than have the rules dictated to me by some fella whose design qualifications include (and are limited to) coloring when they were 4 years old.

    Rather than out of scope, or even tring to get more money for all and every change, I'm just trying to put a stop to requests which, when you consider the inane stupidity of most of them, are just out of order.

    How about this? - Do you think that the big firms have to put up with these hack recommendations, or are they immune a) because the client 'trusts' their reputation more or b) perhaps because he pays them more?

  7. #7
    In the design firm i work for the client doesn't speak with the designer unless he absolutely has to. Whether it be in person or through email or phone. We have the design manager that handles client contacts. This is learnt from experience because in the past when a client has had the ability to directly avoid the coordinator and speak with the designer, they often do feel they can ask more of them. I think this is because when they speak with the designer they feel more in direct power of what the project will become. Speaking with the project coordinator doesn't remove that power from them, but it supplies a third party who acts as a mediator.

    We still get the "hack recommendations" you refer to, and often times if the project is still in the development stage we agree to most, but there is a limit and that's the job of the coordinator... To recognize limits and convey them to the client. If those limits must be exceeded then it falls outside the boundaries of the initial contract and a new subcontract is written up with additional costs.

    Don't get me wrong, we don't take control of the projects and disallow the client to get what he wants, but the project coordinator is there to go over the ideas with the client. Some ideas a client may have sound great at first to him/her but once discussed with the coordinator their idea develops holes and they realize it's not quite as sound as it initially was. Nothing is worse than developing a project and hacking away at it bit by bit to change things. The end effect will be something that doesn't look whole. That's what the client needs shown.

  8. #8
    tell me, is this sellable..... OddDog's Avatar
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    i think this post is about closure.

    i present all work personally, and try to guide the clietn to not making any non mission critical changes. and thats why i go personally to were ever the client is.

  9. #9
    Moderator
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    hurricaneone, in addition to doing freelance work at home, I am currently employed by a huge firm developing lender and broker system.

    Originally posted by hurricaneone
    How about this? - Do you think that the big firms have to put up with these hack recommendations, or are they immune a) because the client 'trusts' their reputation more
    No, because clients typically think they know best especially if they are a part of a big firm themselves.

    [i]or b) perhaps because he pays them more? [/B]
    This is not a problem either if they have the money to shell out.

    -scott

  10. #10
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    Originally posted by [-S|NiStEr_MiNd-]
    In the design firm i work for the client doesn't speak with the designer unless he absolutely has to. Whether it be in person or through email or phone. We have the design manager that handles client contacts. This is learnt from experience because in the past when a client has had the ability to directly avoid the coordinator and speak with the designer, they often do feel they can ask more of them. I think this is because when they speak with the designer they feel more in direct power of what the project will become. Speaking with the project coordinator doesn't remove that power from them, but it supplies a third party who acts as a mediator.
    Hmm, I like that set up a lot. It'd could go a long way to solving the problems I'm having. Of course, the manager'd have to be accutely aware of the limitations/potential of a project and /or individual designer. Do you know if the manager has come from the general site design ranks, so the direction to allow or refuse client 'recommendations' is based on whether the proposal is actually feasable?

  11. #11
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    Originally posted by nocrapchurch
    hurricaneone, in addition to doing freelance work at home, I am currently employed by a huge firm developing lender and broker system.

    Originally posted by hurricaneone
    How about this? - Do you think that the big firms have to put up with these hack recommendations, or are they immune a) because the client 'trusts' their reputation more?

    No, because clients typically think they know best especially if they are a part of a big firm themselves.

    or b) perhaps because he pays them more? [/B]


    This is not a problem either if they have the money to shell out.

    -scott


    But that's my point - Yes, they think they know better, but generally, 90% of the time, they do not know any better at all. Yet still they'll insist on trying to join in on the design game, even though we've made it perfectly clear we don't need any more players, especially those players who, ...er, to put it bluntly, suck.

    It seems to me that for some reason, everyone wants to have a go at being a designer, and as the rule, not the exception, these same people are in denial of the fact that they just ain't got it.

    Hey, just like this - I cannot add. I can only just do it with a calculator. I know I can't do it - I've come to terms with this. So why can't these idiots, currently brainstorming themselves silly, admit that it's simply not a good investment of time to keep throwing up these 'golden' design ideas that the designer we've hired 'must' incorporate in our site.

  12. #12
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    Originally posted by OddDog
    i think this post is about closure.

    i present all work personally, and try to guide the clietn to not making any non mission critical changes. and thats why i go personally to were ever the client is.
    Rather than 'closure', I'd say 'shooting down'

    Apart from a few nasty experiences showing demo work on-line (not wise at all) we too, OddDog, take all our stuff personally to the customer. Generally though, it's not at these meetings which the design suggestion gaffs occur. It's two to three days later when we get a call (or even just a fax) outlining the things liked added/changed. A person with a weaker constitution'd have a full-blown inferiority complex by now over these situations.

  13. #13
    Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk! Hey Moe... serpent star's Avatar
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    You know hurricaneone, I would say that hiring a liason could work well.

    A couple more options could be:

    1) simply remind them that they hired you beacause of you design sense and sensabilities, not in spite of them.

    2) maybe you could consider in the future, a two person approach. Bring a confidant with you to all meetings, explain to your clients that you two are key members of the developement team which is assigned to the clients project, don't hi-light the fact that you are the chief decisiion maker of your company. Lead them too believe that all descisions are made by committee and that to make such changes late in a project would need the approval of the rest of the committee. Then if they brign this crap up , you are facing them with a unified front rather than hanging out there in the breeze as a classic sole proprieter. If need be you could do a sort of watered down version of good cop bad cop. You being the sensative to the customers needs, side with the client while explaining to them the difficulting of implementing these changes with respect to the bad cops objections, you know , the one who is looking out for your companies bottom line. Give them an inch but let them know that it cast you a miles worth of work to gain even that inch.


    Just a couple of thoughts.


    I am currently in a similar situation with a client. We were too develop a logo for the client to be used on the website we were also contracted for. These clients branding and imaging is all over the board, letterhead has one look, business cards another, company vehicles another, uniforms another still. Well, we developed a logo using the material they supplied and tried to sort of get it to mesh with everything. They however just will not be satisfied until the website logo, design and feel run counter too every other peice of branding they have(talk about frustrating). I am just going to give in to there wacked request because it seem sno amount of coaxing can save them from themselves, but I just thought I would share this experience as I feel it sort of relates.

    Anyway, good luck to you my man,

    Mat

  14. #14
    tell me, is this sellable..... OddDog's Avatar
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    i recommend that you do the liason, and hire a designer programmer who fills in some of your gaps..

    i did that, and i am (15 months later) no longer designing or programing, since the people i can get are very much better than me.

  15. #15
    tell me, is this sellable..... OddDog's Avatar
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    you are getting faxes 3 days latter because you are failing to get the famous sign off at every step of the way. every time i see a client i get a signature. another reason to visit personally.

  16. #16
    An Inconvenient Serving Size hurricaneone's Avatar
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    Originally posted by OddDog
    you are getting faxes 3 days latter because you are failing to get the famous sign off at every step of the way. every time i see a client i get a signature. another reason to visit personally.
    Isn't it a bit rough to ask them to sign off on a demo an hour after they've seen it? I mean, on one hand, no it isn't, 'cause after all, they've seen it and it ain't changing (sometimes I wonder if the act of presenting a demo means that I'm asking for suggestions - which, I'd like to say for the record, I'm not), but on the other side of the coin, I theorized that leaving it with them is simply a 'nice' thing to do. Maybe it's nice for them, but not for us.

    Possibly I'm just setting myself up for trouble not getting an immediate signature. Sure seems that way.

    Thanks OddDog, good points.

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