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Observations of a Young Nigerian Female . Powered by Blogger.

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I am young, "normal" and I like to write. People say I eat too much, people don't know what they are saying.

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It’s Not About You: Why Your Customer May Not Love Your Masterpiece

Let me tell you about my wedding; well, the activities prior to my wedding. I had just launched a new business, my content development agency - Words on Us, and I was very very busy. The only friend I had in the region I was living in then, which was also the location for the wedding, was also very very busy with work. I didn’t know a lot about wedding planning because I'd never really been interested. My mom was also very busy with work and my sister was living far away. Considering all these things, my husband and I agreed to hire an event management agency.

Now, this agency was great; they had these lovely videos of their work all over social media and they did have a lot of good ideas. However, they made a huge mistake that so many service providers make without even knowing. 

The event management agency forgot about the client and focused on all the wrong things e.g. what is cool, what is trending, what others are doing, what most people like, what they’d been doing, etc.

These might sound like the exact things that should be considered when providing a service, and they are, but more important than all of these things is WHAT THE CLIENT WANTS, whether it’s “cool” or not. 

Service providers tend to forget who they’re working for and I have to say this clearly so there’s no illusion; IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

My husband and I are simple people and we wanted a simple wedding, a concept the event planner had trouble grasping. Doesn’t it feel off when you find yourself arguing with the client about what they want? It’s true that clients don’t always know what they want, but your job is to help them figure that out and define what they want, not tell them what you think they should want.

I was very clear about what I wanted; a sweet but straightforward ceremony with very little fuss, and altogether a day that I would personally enjoy. I had a swipe file detailing the sort of things I wanted, because I may not have been big on weddings, but I was definitely big on planning and project management. 
Unfortunately, I almost did not enjoy the day at all, in fact, it took sheer willpower to overlook some things and just enjoy myself. Why? My event planner was planning the wedding of her dreams, not mine. 

Prior to the day, I had to set up meetings and at one point even send a clear message explaining that I wasn't confident in her ability or even her interest to create the event I wanted. It didn’t change much; in fact, I ended up doing most of the shopping and vendor engagement because she simply refused to accept that what I wanted was good enough.

It’s not just an event planner problem, which is probably what you were just thinking if you’re a service provider reading this. It’s a service provider problem. I know exactly when a service provider stops paying attention to what I’m saying. There are some easily identifiable signs; the quiet chuckle, not looking at you while you’re talking, not taking any notes, just saying ok to your suggestions without trying to discuss it. Service providers often do this when they feel that their client doesn’t know what they’re talking about or that the client is having too many opinions, or when they have pretty much worked out what they’re going to do and are just waiting to wow the client.

You could create the most amazing masterpiece according to your standards, but if it is not what the client wants, you would have failed at your job. The client is not the problem, you are; because people hire service providers to bring their ideas to life, not the service provider’s. It is really not about you.

I run a content development agency, Words on Us, and what we do month to month is bring our clients ideas to life through content writing and development whether it’s ghostwriting for a book, writing linkedin content or writing instagram content.
We could write the most amazing book with an eye-catching title and the most hilarious quotes and still have done a terrible job if it’s not what the client wanted. Our job is to articulate the client’s message, the wedding planner’s job is to create the wedding that the bride has been dreaming of since she was 5, the DJ’s job is to create a playlist that makes the client happy whether that means playing highlife or Pavarotti. This is why the best reviews i’ve ever gotten go like this “you took the words right out of my head”, “i wouldn’t have put it any differently”, “it’s exactly how it was in my mind”.

Customer-centered service provision doesn’t even start with the service, it actually begins with the budget. It’s definitely your job to suggest a budget to the client, but when that doesn’t work for them, you’re not supposed to insist on your budget, it’s not your money. Every service has to have a category and if your services are for a specific class, don’t accept customers below that class and then hang debts around their necks. I remember our first meeting with the wedding planner where we told her how much we were willing to spend. Her answer was that it simply would not work. We explained that we wanted the event planned to suit the budget, not the other way around, and told her we were happy to explore cheaper alternatives for every expensive item on the budget. She did that thing where they don’t look you in the eye and they just say ok. We learned the hard way that her plan was to just do what she wanted and we’d just have to pay for it because it appeared that we could afford it. I had to take over most of the work she had been paid to do, just so we could stay close to the budget,

In my work, when a client can’t afford any package on our list, we simply work out a package that suits the person’s budget and needs. It’s a simple matter of “you can have this and this but not that” and then it’s up to the client to decide if the curated package works for them. If I know that we simply can’t afford to work with that budget, then I let the client know and advise them on what their money can get them. Easy! 

We all have stories of small-time artisans insisting that they know what is best and then delivering the opposite of what you want; from painters to barbers and tailors. However, large and medium sized service agencies don’t realize that they’re doing it too. When you create the event menu from what’s trending without asking what the client prefers, you’re the same as the tailor who puts stones on a dress the customer never wanted decorated. When you ghostwrite a thought leader’s book without actually researching the author and noting how they speak and write, you’re no better than the barber who does the style he saw on a celebrity and not the simple style his customer actually wanted.

I’ve had tailors tell me the style I wanted was just too simple, like they were going to be wearing it. We all laugh at people who do this, but you could be just as bad if not worse in your job as a website designer, illustrator, product photographer or business developer.

You should definitely advise your clients, but don’t turn in a project they can’t recognise because you did your own thing. I recently spoke with a client who apologized over and over again for making many suggestions and corrections. This happened because service providers have probably given her attitude about her suggestions for her own projects. Here’s what I told her; the voice notes, the calls, the text messages and all the conversations help me understand what she wants, because as good as I am at what I do, what matters most is what she wants. By paying close attention to what she wants, I was able to deliver a social media caption that made her say, “you took the words right out of my mouth” and then extend our contract.

Sometimes, all you’re missing in your service provision process is the client.


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