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Saying "No Thanks"

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Nick Griffin
Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:52:26 am

A good friend of mine who is a graphic artist called me yesterday for advice on a problem. She doesn't feel at home on the COW so I figured I'm summarize her problem, provide my answer and throw it open for broader discussion.

During the summer she accepted a design job from a referred client. At first all went well, monies were advanced, instructions provided, business as normal. The shock came soon after the finished work was delivered when the client called screaming that the work was incomplete, wrong and unprofessional.

After some back and forth it was determined that what the client was looking at was an interpretation of her work which had been "customized" by his secretary, leaving of some parts off the design and modifying others. Client calmed down, never apologized and the balance was paid.

Jump ahead to this past week when the same secretary calls, leaving a message and then emailing that additional services are needed to modify the original work. Not wanting a repeat of what had been an ugly situation (who likes being yelled at?) my friend at first simply ignored the messages before calling me for advice.

I said that ignoring a client, even a bad one is unprofessional. Instead I suggested that she call back, thank them for the inquiry, then explain that given her current workload she simply couldn't take on any more business at this time. Rather than recommend anyone specifically, offer a broad referral, in this case I suggested, "most commercial printers have art departments that could easily handle this kind of project." The inquiry is shut down and any potential blow-back to my friends reputation is minimized, if not eliminated.

So… any thoughts on this, or on alternative ways to say "no thanks" to people for whom we'd rather not work?


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Terry Mikkelsen
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:17:01 pm

Great advice Nick! I would emphasis the CALL back and not email, twitter, facebook, etc....and don't leave a voicemail (other than to say please give me a call at your convenience). If possible, face-to-face communication would be best, but a phone call will do. Its very important to be able to sincerely relay emotion that doesn't come across well (and can even be misinterpreted) from written word. (Half the problems and perceived attitudes that are seen here are because of the miscommunication.) And most importantly, try to speak with the client and not the secretary. (Sending the secretary a thank you note for the repeat business would be good too, since she speaks to many more people than the person she works for.)
This goodwill gesture will ensure that the client isn't offended. It may not result in referrals, but it will help keep the client from bad mouthing her to others. Good luck.

ps-I often don't try to discourage people from visiting the COW, but if she is not going to, I know of another site which may meet her needs as a graphic designer.
http://www.graphicdesignforum.com/

Tech-T Productions
http://www.technical-t.com


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walter biscardi
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:24:59 pm

Nick your suggestion is spot on to what I always say. When a problem client calls, you are simply too busy to take on any additional work at this time.

This achieves two things. 1 - You don't have to work with the client. 2 - The client believes you're really busy and busy usually equals quality work.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" Winner, Best Documentary, LA Reel Film Festival...

Blog Twitter Facebook


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Mark Suszko
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 1:42:17 pm

If this really is a "bad" client, refer them to your biggest rival, make them HIS problem.

Think about this, though: from what we're told, the client didn't cause the first problem: the meddling secretary did. That same secretary is the one that then put the boss out on a limb, yelling at you for no reason. Did the client handle the issue badly, yes, and you'd be within your rights to "fire" them.

But...

But what if this client could be "redeemed"? It might be something as simple as calling the actual client back and saying: "That was an unfortunate mis-communication that happened to us before, but I liked making the project for you: if I knew I could work directly with you on this new version, I'd like to help you and show you more of what we can do for you."

Then if you get the "I'm too busy, work thru the secretary" thing, you can contact the secretary with referral info for someone else to handle it, and know that you did more than required to make a customer happy.


Here is a well-known "secret" about customer service:
Seven out of ten complaining customers WILL do business with you again... IF you resolve the complaint in their favor. If you resolve it on the spot without delay, that percentage rises to 95% repeat business. Major retailers know this and that's why they have pretty liberal policies on merchandise returns and exchanges.


In no way would I suggest that she just give in and surrender, particularly if she just doesn't like them. But it IS cheaper to keep existing clients than find new ones. Also, happy clients often become a source of referrals. If she can get past the jerk that messed things up the last time, there might be a very good chance for a happy ending.

I'm guessing the meddlesome secreatary is a frustrated wannabe graphic artist themselves. That person will always be a potential point of friction with you. Kill them with kindness; it drives such people insane. But never turn your back on them: always get everything with them in writing and signed-off.


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Todd Terry
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:24:07 pm

Nick, I think your advice could not be more right on the money.

Yes, it's probably very possible to win this client back. But it sounds like one she doesn't want or need.

We have some inquiries who are incredulous that we won't accept them as clients. "What? You won't take my money?" No, we often don't. We pick and choose whom we work with very carefully. Life's too short to have to deal with idiots... even idiots with money (who are often the worst kind).

Yes, tell your friend she should graciously decline, and move on.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Ronald Lindeboom
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:23:12 pm

[Nick Griffin] "She doesn't feel at home on the COW..."

Did she mention why? I'd love to hear her comments, if she made any as to why.

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC
Publisher, Creative COW Magazine

Creativity is a process wherein the student and the teacher are located in the same individual.

"Incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm."
- Woody Allen


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Nick Griffin
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:43:47 pm

[Ronald Lindeboom] "Did she mention why? I'd love to hear her comments, if she made any as to why."

Calm down, Ron. I don't believe it's anything personal, more like the fact that the majority of the herd here is in film, video and motion graphics.

Then there's the fact that many, many people are not comfortable writing in an open and public forum. For example I have another friend who is an excellent DP/cameraman who I've nudged, pushed and pleaded to start participating in the COW, but he never gets around to it. I suspect it's because he feels the majority of his knowledge is centered on his craft and that he might embarrass himself with inarticulate writing. That's why they're so many more lurkers than posters. But then I seriously doubt I'm stating anything that isn't obvious to most of us.


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Ronald Lindeboom
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 7:32:47 pm

[Nick Griffin] "Calm down, Ron. I don't believe it's anything personal, more like the fact that the majority of the herd here is in film, video and motion graphics."

I didn't think it was anything personal, Nick. I am just always concerned when women say they are not comfortable at the COW. I pay particular attention to what they say because I am not interested in being only a "Boy's Club" kind of site. In fact, we once killed the one forum that was quite trafficked and was avowedly Boys Town in nature.

That was my concern, no need for chill pills, I was just wondering if there were any comments made that we might have gained an insight from, is all.

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC
Publisher, Creative COW Magazine

Creativity is a process wherein the student and the teacher are located in the same individual.

"Incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm."
- Woody Allen


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Rafael Amador
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 30, 2010 at 11:01:07 am

[Ronald Lindeboom] "I didn't think it was anything personal, Nick. I am just always concerned when women say they are not comfortable at the COW. I pay particular attention to what they say because I am not interested in being only a "Boy's Club" kind of site. In fact, we once killed the one forum that was quite trafficked and was avowedly Boys Town in nature."
Dear Ron,
I don't know about other forums, but I must state that, at least in the FC forum, ladies are very well treated. In fact I could talk of a kind of "positive discrimination". Sure would be great if more women post questions (and answers as well), but I don't think the lack of participation is about feeling comfortable or not, but about a different vision on what is The COW for. In fact this low participation is not exclusive of the COW. In other media networks I think that the participation is even lower than here.
rafael

http://www.nagavideo.com


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Ronald Lindeboom
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:31:27 pm

[Nick Griffin] "So… any thoughts on this, or on alternative ways to say "no thanks" to people for whom we'd rather not work?"

Considering that the client got in her face yelling and would not have the professionalism or class to apologize, I think that all pretense of professionalism is out the window and I wouldn't bother to call back.

Others may disagree but I wouldn't bother. In fact, I can be so hard-nosed about this kind of thing that I'd probably leave a voicemail that the only call I'll accept going forward is one that starts with a sincere apology.

But hey, that's just me. (And those who know me well, can attest that I am just as hard-nosed on myself and am just as likely to extend an apology where needed.)

Sometimes, professionalism is just so...well, unprofessional.

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC
Publisher, Creative COW Magazine

Creativity is a process wherein the student and the teacher are located in the same individual.

"Incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm."
- Woody Allen


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Mark Suszko
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:46:58 pm

Ron, she probably doesn't have a problem with the COW, but just doesn't want to leave a cyber-trail openly discussing a case like this. I can relate. This is just the chance you have to take in a site that requires your real name. In some cases it may inhibit people from sharing because they have no anonymity to hide behind. I'm sure we all have some REALLY great stories/problems we *could* share, if we could be anonymous about them. But that's not the way of things here.

While I don't think changing your policy is the answer, perhaps what you need, if I may be so bold, is a link in this particular forum for people to post "Ann Landers" type questions to you, off-site, which you then filter and present on the submitters' behalf, in cases where you think it a worthy topic for group discussion. Scrub the names and concentrate on the problem and solutions, which would be of benefit to all. I can think of a couple kids who've posted in the past that needed a lot of help and advice, but at the same time complicated their lives by outing their problems to anybody who might google their names during the employment application process.

So, if you had a back-channel means for those kinds of people to post, they might get some desperately-needed advice without the risks, and you would still retain the discipline and decorum that makes this site so special and unique.

Not like you're really busy or anything, right? :-)


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Joshua Klinkenberger
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:08:46 pm

Hopefully not getting too off topic:

I can attest to the fear of looking for certain advice here. COW has been one of the best recourses in my endeavors for both technical advice as well as personal career advice. The latter however was at a large cost/risk that I didn't realize initially and have since pursued alternate means of obtaining advise (i.e. not using COW) in the categories of careers, job-hunting, cover letters, etc.

I do think that any anonymity would be chaos save for Mark's "Ann Landers" idea.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:44:22 pm

Thanks for the comment. To clarify, this is not something I would suggest be applied site-wide; only here in this particular forum, and the people that would submit thru the "back-channel" would do so, knowing that there was no promise implied that their particular case would be posted. Only the most useful topics to the general user base would be selected and forwarded to the public forum, as and where deemed appropriate by management. Just a more formalized version of what Nick did when he started this topic.
There it is, make of it what you will.


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John Davidson
now that the pot is stirred
on Oct 26, 2010 at 9:45:45 pm

I agree with Mark. In this particular forum, you're not getting posts from people in large media companies because these folks can get fired for posting anything. Maybe the encouragement of restraint is a good thing, but it might be a myopic rule because you're not hearing certain voices that are very, very important to all of our careers.
I have probably 15 years of contacts at dozens of networks, and I only know about 5 people on here from my pre-cow life. Part of that is because I'm editorially focused and not technical - the cow just doesn't offer much to people in terms of Creative Services (network promotions, not actual creativity). Another part is because network x might fire somebody for posting on a board - it's not as crazy as it sounds.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to allow an anonymous post, or to 'anonymize' a post like on craigslist. You still have the IP address, so a little cross referencing would eliminate an insulting poster - or expose him/her if that person was posting something ridiculous. If you abuse the anonymizer, your IP gets banned. What you might find is that you get new insights into parts of our industry that aren't always represented. Isn't that one of the goals of the cow?
j


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walter biscardi
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 9:15:24 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Ron, she probably doesn't have a problem with the COW, but just doesn't want to leave a cyber-trail openly discussing a case like this. I can relate. This is just the chance you have to take in a site that requires your real name. In some cases it may inhibit people from sharing because they have no anonymity to hide behind. I'm sure we all have some REALLY great stories/problems we *could* share, if we could be anonymous about them. But that's not the way of things here."

We definitely don't need to change the policy of real names for sure. Prior to that change, the forums were really starting to get out of control with "I'm much better than you, You don't know Crap" kind of posts that were just littering all over the pasture.

By requiring real names, which all of the forum leaders always used anyway, that makes you accountable for your words and actions. As it should be.

Yes, it might inhibit people from asking career changing advice or "how do I deal with this situation at work" questions because they can be found through their real names. But that's a small price to pay for maintaining the order and civility of these forums.

I think the suggestions of a "back channel" to ask questions that could get someone in trouble or fired from a position is a very valid idea, though where do you draw the line for the questions and who is going to take / monitor / approve the questions? Ron, Kathlyn and the entire Cow team does a LOT of work behind the scenes that none of us ever see.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" Winner, Best Documentary, LA Reel Film Festival...

Blog Twitter Facebook


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Nick Griffin
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 26, 2010 at 9:48:53 pm

Talked to my friend late this afternoon and she's thrilled with the advice coming into this thread. Thanks everybody!


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Neil Hurwitz
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 27, 2010 at 4:04:07 am

I am going to differ with most here and say my advice
Would be to suck it up and deal with the client
albeit on slighty diferent terms. She should insist on a
mechanism where her work is guaranteed to be viewed unadulterated,
even if it means delivering the work in person for a screening.
She got paid in full, so money was not an issue
So here's my logic;
1. It seems that no one picked up on the fact that she was
REFERRED to this client by a third party.
She runs the risk of blowing up that relationship also.
If the client calls up the referer (we don't know what that relationship is) and only blabs, whatever, then they might not
feel so confortable doing more referals.
2. Paying clients are not jumping out of the forest so fast
that in these times they should be run over. A little effort
to set the record straight and rehabilitate them is the smarter move.
They might in turn do some referals, stranger things have happened.
I have got to think that there is just some plain swaggering
going on here. In 30 years I have "fired" just two accounts.

Neil Hurwitz


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Martin Curtis
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 27, 2010 at 9:50:49 am

I wonder if it's possible for the forum to display "anonymous" for a poster's name (if they so desire it) unless the viewer is logged in. That way we could prevent our names being attached to certain posts when the search engines come to visit, but still be completely visible to members.


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Bob Zelin
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 27, 2010 at 6:46:23 pm

All I can add to this, is that one of the greatest articles ever written in history is the Grinder article by Ron Lindeboom. There should be a permanent link to this article somewhere on this site, so that every discouraged professional can readily click on it, and read it (or be refered to it), as it sums up this womans situation very quickly (and makes you instantly feel better). We can even call it "Creative Cow Drugs".

Bob Zelin



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Todd Terry
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:22:00 pm

I'm sure Nick appreciates all the opinions (most of them very good)... but I did notice something that happens here on the COW a lot, and that's unsolicited advice.

Now, I'm not being a crank, I'm a fan of all advice, solicited or otherwise... and some of the best advice I've ever received was that which I didn't ask for (or probably even want at the time). But I also know we are not privy to what is probably a myriad of details about this client relationship.

I'm suspecting Nick's friend's intention is only asking the best way to send 'em packing.

Clients are of the highest value, and our businesses aren't businesses without them. But there are always bad apples in the bunch, and sometimes it is best to just cut the rotten ones lose... and not feel bad about it. Been there, done that. And I think Nick heard a lot of good ways to tell his friend to do so.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Nick Griffin
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:36:16 pm

Thanks, Todd. I do believe that the decision was already made that this was too much of a jerk to be involved with again. Screaming at a professional like they're somehow beneath one is simply not acceptable to anyone who has any options.

Many of us have reached the point where we won't tolerate idiots. Idiot clients can be replaced, usually easily. The truly good clients should be cherished and given the best treatment one can possibly offer because they are very hard to find and equally difficult to replace.


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Randy Wheeler
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Nov 1, 2010 at 6:25:12 pm

Would it be a good idea to give a copy of the "Grinder" article to each new client before you start any work for them? Possibly include it with the contract you give them?

I'm half joking here but with some potentially risky clients I might be tempted to do it.

Randy


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Nick Griffin
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Nov 1, 2010 at 6:28:15 pm

Yes, but... grinders rarely know that they are grinders. My personal belief is that most of them rationalize their actions to the extent that they never see themselves the way others see them.


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grinner hester
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:51:05 pm

I just say I'm booked in these cases. It's not unlike the old "i'm doing my hair" excuse chicks used in school when the dork asked em out. It's just more polite that saying I don't date dorks.
Not all artist/client combos are a match. Aint anybody gotta be rude about it.



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Rafael Amador
Re: Saying "No Thanks"
on Oct 30, 2010 at 10:39:04 am

[Nick Griffin] "I said that ignoring a client, even a bad one is unprofessional. Instead I suggested that she call back, thank them for the inquiry, then explain that given her current workload she simply couldn't take on any more business at this time. "
Dear Nick, I agree with you, but I think that some times we have to forget about career, business and money and fallow our guts. Money doesn't cures frustration.
rafael

http://www.nagavideo.com


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