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Having different expectations may simply be due to a miscommunication. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
Ask more questions up front to learn what a client’s expectations are. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
Stay calm and professional and listen for what the real problem is. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
Hello and welcome to episode number 79. It’s been a couple of episodes since we’ve had some time together and I’m excited to get right back to you and kick it off in the final month of the year.
Today’s topic: Don’t take it personal. This is one of the lessons I had to learn when I first started my virtual assistant business. It was a tough lesson. It wasn’t something that someone told me in advance, and I didn’t realize the impact that clients’ feedback, their emails, responses would have on me until things started happening.
I thought about how I evolved and got better on that and learned not to take things personal, and thought this would be great to share with you here on the podcast because you may be dealing with the same thing, or maybe it hasn’t started yet, and when it does, at least you will be equipped to know how to handle it.
Now, one of the things that we are going to always receive, as the nature of our business, is client feedback, and we want their feedback. I’m not talking about in regards to overall your service, but even everything that you do as far as servicing them. Things where they have to give you their opinion about something.
Let’s say you are editing their blogpost and you have to format it into WordPress and set it up for them. Maybe they even want you to select some images from a stock website that they have an account with. So that is your task to edit the blogpost, format it in WordPress, and select images for that post from whatever stock photo website that they use. You do that and you put it in draft and you send it to them for review.
Now, the very first time you do something like that where your client has to review it and tell you what they think, it is, you know, it seems like the wait is forever until you hear back. Say, it’s not positive. Maybe, you know, they’re just saying, “Oh, this is not what I was thinking about. Can you find something else?” Some people know how to communicate that in a professional and warm manner, and other people don’t know how to communicate that in a way that would be effective and not rude, you know, and especially if you’re communicating with your clients in writing.
So if it comes back and it’s like, “Ah, this is not what I expected. I don’t like it. I’m not sure if it was the right thing to even outsource it. I don’t know.” Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. Whatever the words are and the tone, everybody’s email has a tone, the tone that you feel from the email, what you have to do is not absorb it personally. It has nothing to do with you if they thought it would different, their expectation was different from yours. It could be a simple thing of miscommunication or non-communication.
The lesson would be what questions could you ask to learn what their expectations are?
From the beginning, if you have to do something like that, find out what their expectations are. What is it that you’re looking for? What type of images? If they aren’t sure, see if they can narrow it down to a category or a type or subject matter to help steer you in the right direction as opposed to just having a complete blank canvas, do whatever you want. Because it’s hard when you’re told, “Oh, well, whatever you think is best,” and then you do that and then it comes back and it was not what they expected. One thing to avoid something like that is to ask questions in regards to what their expectation is.
So maybe it’s not the clear, cut and dry. Maybe it is in relation to the feedback they give you after a project is over. You thought it went great, and you learned later in their feedback, wherever they give you feedback, whether it’s on Upwork or an email, you learn later how they really felt about the project. More than likely it, again, is a communication problem, and it may have something to do with their expectation, whatever it was. Is it related to response time? Is it related to quality? Is it related to professionalism? Each time it happens, it’s an opportunity to learn.
I remember I had a client on Elance. She was an author of I think it was like a diet book or something, and she wanted me to read her book and to I can’t remember if it was write reviews on Amazon or just write her a review in general just to give her my feedback on it. I got the book and it wasn’t the type of book that I would read. It was a cross between a recipe book and a health book, and it wasn’t exactly what I would have read, or you know, if I’m at the bookstore, I wouldn’t have picked it up and bought it.
It was hard for me to write whatever it was. I think it was a review I had to do. It was very hard for me to write that, and there was something else. Gosh, it’s amazing how time goes by and you forget all the details. This is how much that I was able to let that go. Interesting how that turned out. But anyway, whatever it was, it turned out I didn’t meet her expectation, and I did my best.
But what I learned in that was I needed to ask more questions up front. What was her book about? I needed to take a look at it. If there was a preview on Amazon, I needed to have gone and looked at it ahead of time and checked it out to see is this something that I’m going to be interested enough to want to do and to want to comment on? That would have helped from the beginning, and then there was some other things as well.
But it ended up blowing up and didn’t work out well. She was not pleased. She wrote a bad review on Elance, and I think I responded back on Elance and I responded in a professional way. I can’t even remember what I said. She was just very rude. She was like, “And send me my book back.” [Laughs.] So I happily rushed to the post office to get her book back, send it right back to her. But I learned a lot from that experience.
By that time, I didn’t take what she was saying personally because when people start being ugly and trying to attack things that you know are outside of your control, or they’re trying to, you know, I’m trying to think of the right word. They’re trying to be insulting beyond your project, beyond the business that you’re doing. It’s all about them.
I didn’t know at that time, you know, that wasn’t the way to get reviews, and so she was wanting to be misleading on her Amazon account with the reviews, and me being totally green, not realizing this is not something that I should be doing in the first place. So it worked out fantastically that it did blow up. I can’t remember if she paid me or I told her she didn’t have to. Sometimes things blow up so bad it’s like you know what, I just want to be done with it.
But anyway, that was an experience that I completely forgot about until I started sharing with you just now on the podcast. I completely forgot about that incident. Gosh, I’m remembering her first name, but I can’t remember all the details. But anyway, so that was one, and these kind of things, they stand out because usually for the most part people are professional, they’re appreciative, all those things. So when they’re not, they pop up like a sore thumb.
The key is just realizing the other person has things going on just like you have things going on.
Sometimes people allow whatever it is that’s going on outside of you to seep into the situation and spill over onto you. Whatever that is. Now, let’s say it’s the client and they just have ridiculous expectations because they’ve never worked with a VA. They are overwhelmed and overloaded with all these things, and then you come along. You are the miracle worker. You’re going to save the day. Somebody told them get them a VA. “The VA will save the day for you and you will be able to make all this money because now you’ve hired a VA.”
Well, you don’t know about all this stuff that someone has told them and all the expectations that they have told them was going to happen as a result of hiring a VA, and here you come. You’re excited, got a new client. Yes! And they dump on you, and you don’t realize how much they have, and maybe it’s a short timeframe. Well, that is a situation that could cause some things to happen as well that you have to not take personal.
I’ve had clients who were frustrated at me, but not really at me. They were frustrated – well, not they. It’s a client in particular standing out in my mind. She was doing a telesummit and, I mean, the telesummit was going to be like in two or three weeks. I’ve got my timer here. Okay, there we go. I want to make sure that I get it all in.
But anyway, so she had telesummit. It was going to be in two to three weeks, and we were really pressed for time and nothing had been done. She had her landing page, but the sign up, you know, if they signed up, that part wasn’t set up yet. Reminders emails. Speakers hadn’t been interviewed. I mean nothing. So we were pressed, and so here I come. I know, I’m familiar with everything we needed, so I’m asking her about this, this, and this because by now I’ve learned to ask all the right questions and all this stuff.
Well, that added fuel to fire and me not knowing that that made it worse because she didn’t realize how much she didn’t have, how much she didn’t know, and she thought VA would be a miracle worker and get it all done tomorrow, not realizing I can only do as much as I can do based on what you have, not realizing that you’ve got to do your part too and then we work together. It’s a partnership.
When you’re working with your clients, it’s a partnership. You are not their employee. It’s a partnership. You work together.
So that was a situation that kind of blew up. But I learned to not let what her frustration was come off on me. She was expecting me to be available at the drop of a hat. Sometimes, I don’t know, it’s rare when clients don’t realize that you work with different people. When you come, you fit in the schedule. It’s not exclusive. You fit into the schedule of things that were going on before you. That was one thing and then it was like, “Oh, I thought you’d be available,” dah, dah, dah. We managed to get it all done. You know, she blew up on me. I kept it professional and asked the questions I needed to ask.
I don’t allow people to verbally abuse me. You’re going to be upset and yell at me. We’re talking on the phone. “No, that’s not going to work.” But I know how to shut that down professionally. You stay calm. You stay quiet. You listen and realize. Listen for what the real problem is, and that’s when I discovered, oh, she is frustrated because she needs help. She’s frustrated because she can’t do this all by herself. She’s frustrated because she doesn’t know the technology. She’s frustrated because she has to be dependent on someone else to get this part done.
Well, fortunately for her, she was working with me. I’m not going to take advantage of that. I’m sorry. You know, I didn’t tell her I’m sorry. Why do we say I’m sorry? We’re not sorry. [Laughs.] Total side note. Ladies – I know there are gentlemen that listen to the podcast as well, but this side note is for the ladies. Let’s stop saying I’m sorry. We’re not sorry. What are you sorry for?
Anyway, but she was frustrated by all these different things, and I just told her, “I understand. Let’s do this first. Then we’ll do that.” You know, manage the calmness. Get some order. What are we going to do first? What are we doing to do next?
The advantage that you have in being the virtual assistant is that you are coming in to help and to assist. It’s not you on the line. It’s them.
It’s their business. At the end of the day, it’s their business. It’s their name. They’re on the frontlines. We’re in the back. But our job is to make it the best it can possibly be based on what we have. If that includes having to calm someone down by you being calm, then awesome. But when I started in 2008, I would have taken it personal. I would have been upset. I would have been frustrated. You know, it wouldn’t have worked out. It wouldn’t have worked out.
The whole point of today’s podcast – don’t take it personal, the things that come your way. It’s not always about you. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s about something else that has nothing to do with you. Like the fact where the lady is frustrated about she can’t do it all herself. Well, nobody can do everything by themselves. But that has nothing to do with you or me. That’s a personal issue.
When things come up, you know, take it for what it is. Don’t take it personal. Someone says they don’t like your writing or you didn’t edit something right, don’t take it personal. No emotion. Just find out what did you expect? What is it you’re looking for? Get details, and then the next time you’ll have better questions to ask because you will have experienced time where the right questions weren’t asked, or not enough questions were asked.
Anyway, I hope today’s podcast helped you. If nothing else, you know that you’re not the only one that has experienced situations where things didn’t always work out the way you expected. But the bright side of it all is that you learn, you go stronger, and it makes you a better you in your business.
Thanks so much for tuning in. If you like what you heard, stay tuned. We’ll be back. Tell me what’s going on with you. Come on over the Facebook page: facebook.com/tiffanyparsonbiz, or if you prefer a little shorter message, come on over to Twitter: @tiffanydparson.
See you next time!
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