[thelist] How to Talk Down to the Client (WAS: getting rid of the quote builder)

Jeniffer C. Johnson lead at offlead.com
Wed Dec 8 13:54:40 CST 2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Alex Beston [mailto:alex at deltatraffic.co.uk]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2004 12:53 PM
> To: lead at offlead.com; thelist at lists.evolt.org
> Subject: Re: [thelist] How to Talk Down to the Client (WAS: getting rid of
> the quote builder)

> so you treat your clients like children? they must like it or something.
> what are you getting at?

Of course I don't treat my clients like children, because they aren't. But
most of them don't understand websites any better than I understand steel
manufacturing. When talking to clients one-on-one, I know what they're
understanding and what they aren't, and whether they want a more "basic"
explanation. My questions were more along the lines of how to communicate
effectively when I'm not talking to a client one-on-one, for example on my
own website. How to explain my services in a way that they understand. I
don't mean "down" as in to belittle. I mean "down" as in not talking over
their heads with what to them is techno-babble. To speak TO them rather than
OVER them. How to do this when I don't know who is reading the site or what
they might or might not know.

My clients range from those who simply need me to set up hosting to those I
have to visit in person in order to set up their email clients for them.
I've even placed phone calls to clients' users (at the request of the
client, of course) in order to walk the user through how to do something we
take for granted as easy (like how to correctly sign up for a user account
on a site, responding to the email confirmation properly, or how to upload a
file in a CMS). My clients aren't stupid or dumb...they just often don't
know a thing about computers. 

You mention in your list of reasons why a website might not be feasible,
"dont know how to use a computer, open programs, input / format / edt, save
documents". These are, in many cases, precisely the people I'm working with.
And yes, I've had to teach clients, in some cases in person or over the
phone, how to create documents, how to use programs, how to navigate a web
forum, even how to send an email. Telling someone what their pop server
address is doesn't help him much when he doesn't know how to use email, much
less configure a new email account. Most recently I had to explain to a new
client what a domain was, and how getting one with a hosted solution would
benefit her over using the space provided to her by her ISP. You may not
want these people as clients, but I'm quite happy with them. I far prefer
working with this type of client to a large Fortune 500 company. (And yes, I
have plenty of that experience as well, both past and present.) I find the
work far more gratifying, as well as less stressful. I was merely curious
how others feel about working with this sort of client.


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