By Jake Poinier
In the past week, I’ve twice employed what I’ll call my Fred Flintstone technique. If you’re a fan of the old Flintstones cartoon, you’ll remember how, when Fred would get yelled at by Wilma over the phone, he’d hold the ram’s horn handset away from his head while she ranted on.
The truth is, there are going to be times as a freelancer when you just need to hear the client out. Don’t try to defend yourself, don’t try to explain why you did what you did, don’t even respond. Just listen.
We’re not perfect, nor are our clients. Sometimes they are cranky, and some are crankier than others. Ultimately, you need to have a sixth sense of when it’s going to benefit you to keep your mouth shut. If you’ve ever been on a good — or bad — customer service call, you remember exactly how you felt. I’ve canceled accounts purely over poor customer service, and I’ve also had my faith renewed in an entire brand by a single sympathetic voice.
The best customer services reps are incredibly skilled at one thing: de-escalation. They don’t want you to pull the ol’ “put a manager on the line!” gambit, and they want to solve your problem quickly and to your satisfaction.
Well, as a freelancer, there *is* no one to escalate to. You’re it, whether you like it or not. The problem is yours to solve.
There will be days when the little devil on your shoulder is prodding you with a pitchfork, and saying, “Go ahead — give ’em both barrels!” Better, however to listen to the angel on the other side: Take a cleansing breath, close your eyes, listen with as much sympathy as you can muster…and hold the phone away from your ear if it’s too much to deal with.