Making Clients Happy

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 2:23 pm | Comments off

Recently we did a small job for a new client. It was a very basic PHP script that looked through a MySQL database and sent a reminder to the email specified 10 days prior to the record expiring. We had a bit of extra time, so we decided we'd throw in a little feature - the ability to include any database field easily in the email. I was told that when he (my client) demoed it to his client, it was the first thing he asked for. The next day, we got an email with a request to do more work. Going above and beyond is always a good way to please clients and make them happy to work with you in the future...

Comments

Nathan Logan
January 26th, 2005
3:20 PM | #

PHP - yum.

If I could do PHP development all day, I would. It's fun stuff.

A question: how do you go about getting PHP-related jobs?

Ryan Brill
January 26th, 2005
3:36 PM | #

"how do you go about getting PHP-related jobs?"

Hopefully one of these days, I'll figure that out (not limited to PHP). ;) Work has been picking up a bit lately, slowly but surely, and I think it probably just boils down to my name getting out there more.

I'd like to focus on growing my company, but need to get a few things in place, first (including a brand new website for Infinity). After I have some of that ready, I'll be brainstorming to find ways to drive up business even more. :)

Cde
January 26th, 2005
3:38 PM | #

Should you not remove Island City Inn from Latest Projects on infinitywebdesign.com, as it seems they've redesigned badly...

Ryan Brill
January 26th, 2005
3:43 PM | #

Yep, thanks for pointing that out. I'm planning to check into what's happening with the Island City Inn. That was a fairly recent job, and I wasn't notified that anything was going to change. Can't imagine why they'd revert to a layout like that!

Nathan Logan
January 26th, 2005
3:44 PM | #

"Hopefully one of these days, I'll figure that out"

When you figure that out, would you mind hooking me (and nobody else) up with the secret formula?

;)

If you ever get swamped with PHP work, you've got my address.

Oh, also, have you checked out Desiring God Ministries (John Piper) yet?

Jonathan Fenocchi
January 26th, 2005
7:07 PM | #

Downright straight up, Ryan. I recommend that any Web developer who wants to experience success should make pleasing clients not just a rule but also a priority. Hearing horror stories of responses (or lack thereof) from people who've tried contacting companies or individuals who offer a service just make me so frustrated! Seeing eye-to-eye with your client is extremely important; it is unfair to treat anyone, let alone someone whom you are working for, wrongly, unkindly or unethically.

Jonathan Fenocchi
January 26th, 2005
7:11 PM | #

In fact, recently I redesigned a web site for a client; after being thanked more for how I treated him than what I had done for him, he asked me to do more work for him. From a redesign of a site to a series of various PHP and JavaScript applications - that's where treating your clients properly can take you, or even further! Ask yourself, what are the limits?

By the way, Ryan, your edit feature doesn't seem to be working for me. I'm not sure why, but I tried to edit my entry and it didn't work. Can you fix that?

Robert Wellock
January 27th, 2005
4:05 AM | #

Hmm, a most superior and interesting redesign of "Island City Inn" and a great use of the <font> element I love the marquee, what classiness.

I have had such things happen to me in the past; retrofitted sites and after a few months they end-up thinking they can go alone and produce something completely backwards. Obviously I don't do it as a profession or profit but now I am very weary of helping people who don't help themselves out.

Robert Wellock
January 27th, 2005
4:10 AM | #

I agree the edit function is up the spout at the momment.

Paul "The Tree" Carpenter
January 27th, 2005
6:11 AM | #

Execeding a clients expectations doesn't just get you more work, it makes them happy and then they go and do a bit more work for someone else and that person is happy and pretty soon the worlds average happyness has gone up a tiny bit :)

Ryan Brill
January 27th, 2005
9:11 AM | #

I know the edit functionality seems to be botched for most (not all) people right now. Haven't had time to look into it yet...

chuck
January 27th, 2005
9:12 AM | #

one of my mantras for serving clients is:

"Never do what you promised - always do more"

exactly like what you were talking about, Ryan - throw something else in extra ... every time I've done this, I've had great results.

Ryan Brill
January 27th, 2005
12:30 PM | #

Re. the Island City Inn issue:

"A family member has come forward to take over our website for free and do any updates whenever we want. Can't beat the price!"

Apparently to some people, price is all that matters. Can't imagine that the new site will do much to get them any business...

raingrove
January 27th, 2005
2:14 PM | #

You are a freelancer, right? Where do you get your clients? I am getting my admission to a university soon, and I wanna make some income while studying in the university.
By the way, this blog is cool.

This comment was edited by raingrove at 02:15 pm

Ryan Brill
January 27th, 2005
2:22 PM | #

My clients come from all over the place. I've got a steady freelancing job going (was offered a full time position, but turned it down in favor of continuing to freelance), so between that and work that comes in through my company (which is starting to pick up), I easily stay busy 40 hours a week or more.

I've got a few semi-steady clients that send recurring work, which is obviously what you want. Other than that, I think my (company) name is just starting to get out there a bit and with some plans to re-structure my company, I'm feel like I'm a hop, skip and jump away from taking it to the next level.

David Glenn
January 27th, 2005
3:02 PM | #

It's always fun to lose a client/site to the ubiquitous 'family member' who 'knows' the web and will do it for free...

I've been trying to battle this attrition by promoting a CMS behind -every- client's site I do. Typically these are custom CMS modeled after the client's business and business processes. This seems to have many benefits:

- makes for a better customer site: sites are more dynamic (news, calendars, articles, product info, etc.) and content can change regularly (easily and at the client's discretion, puts them in control). This seems to directly keep away the family members as they aren't needed for quick changes (it's already possible).

- keeps the client regularly involved with the site/web (static sites just sit in the corner and gather dust, dynamic CMS backed sites are more apt to be played with and changed).

- opens the clients eyes to 'more' that can be done with their site and business (which is generally more business/work for me)

- helps keep me in freelance dev. work (php, css, etc.)

~dave

Nathan Logan
January 27th, 2005
3:42 PM | #

Ryan, you'll pardon my boldness, but I felt it necessary to write the owner(s) and let them know about the poor decision they made in converting the site. I was very professional and made sure to let them know that you did not have any part in the e-mail, but I just had to tell them.

David, I like the CMS behind (nearly) every site you do idea. I guess you could probably sell it to almost every business, for one reason or another... That is, except for the Business Owners Against CMS Propagation (BOACMSP), that is. Suckers won't bite.

Ryan Brill
January 27th, 2005
3:49 PM | #

Nathan,

No, I don't necessarily have a problem with it. Obviously I wouldn't request people to do it, but I feel the same way you do. What really bites about it, is I gave them a very, very good price on the site as I wanted it for a portfolio piece. I guess stuff like that always tends to come back around, eh?

Peter
January 27th, 2005
5:49 PM | #

Did you keep the files on your computer/server? If so, you can keep a demo version of the site up in your portfolio noting that the site has since been redesigned.

Always sucks when you do a job, and then they get it horribly redesigned right away because a family member (12 year old) got a hold of front page. As long as you get paid, though like you said, you did it discounted for the portfolio. Tough break.

Peter
January 27th, 2005
6:34 PM | #

I noticed you used "we" to describe your company. How many of you are there?

Ryan Brill
January 27th, 2005
7:34 PM | #

Right now, there are two of us. It's still in it's growing stages, so it doesn't keep two of us busy full time, but it has moved to more than I can handle by myself, thanks to my sub-contracting deal.

I definitly have a vision for it's future, and am drawing closer to totally "re-building" the company. I've recently changed the way we do things, and it seems to be starting to pay off.

Jonathan Fenocchi
January 28th, 2005
7:18 PM | #

An A List Apart article comes to mind... kind of ironic how this topic was also brought up in an entry such as this.

Meitar Moscovitz
January 28th, 2005
9:29 PM | #

Jonathan, that ALA article is great. I can't imagine how I missed it!

I can especially relate to this part:

A few web design companies out there have set-in-stone formulas for websites. One such formula was 4 pages for $600. Well, when you pay $600 for a website, you get a $600 website. So-called "design companies" like this are the ones who only perpetuate the downward spiral of cheaper over better.

I have lost more bids than I would like to remember to elementary and high-school-aged "Web deveolopers" with formulas like these.

Furthermore, when you're just starting out in the freelance biz (as I am) it's even harder because you have fewer past published works with which to showcase your skills.

Even more frustrating, several of the companies for whom I have offered to do work for free just to build my own portfolio have either turned me down or abandoned the project mid-way! (Abandoned! Mid-way! After the starting hours I had put into it! Why would they do this? Why?)

What's a starving web developer to do?

I've resolved to doing my best possible work for any job I get. In every case where I've managed to grab the bid, I have had excellent feedback from the client because of precisely what Ryan has talked about in this post.

Under-promise and over-deliver, and communicate in as simple a language as you can is the mantra I keep telling myself.

Finally, business contacts is important. As a "coder," I have limited artistic ability, and so making and maintaining connections with talented graphic designers is one of my top priorities. (And, of course, helping less technically skilled developers whenever I can.)

Mike Purvis
January 30th, 2005
3:44 PM | #

I'm just working a co-op job at a web company with its own home-grown CMS (similar to Mambo, but much more flexible/powerful). It's always great when the client calls up for a feature request and you can give them a little more... the second thank-you call alone is worth it.

Dean
February 13th, 2005
11:45 AM | #

I wonder if they use the 'free standard' for running the rest of their inn business. Do they have a free snow-plow service? Is the food they serve obtained for free? Is the room-cleaning service free? I wonder how they get free electricity, heat, and water. Their customers are lucky to be able to stay there for free - can't beat that price. ;-)

Dean
February 13th, 2005
11:50 AM | #

Wait a minute - their website says "Call us first for our rates." Why call, aren't the rates free? Now I'm confused. (edit feature doesn't work)

Dean
May 6th, 2005
12:25 PM | #

When you refer to writing a CMS for your client, by CMS you don't mean a Mambo Clone, do you? Don't you mean a custom CMS that you write yourself - one that is merely a mechanism for the client to add/edit content, but is separate from the overall structure and design of the site (unlike Mambo which includes everything in one package). Does that make sense?

In other words, do you design and build the site first, then add in the CMS as a way to publish content into the design; or do you write an overall package similar to Mambo within which the client controls everything including content, structure, and design?

I've been working on learning how to create a custom CMS, but whenever I mention 'CMS' a lot of people think I'm trying to write another Mambo type application, which I'm not. They ask, "why is there a need to write another CMS when there are so many already out there?" Just thought I'd ask to make sure I haven't missed something along the way. Thanks.

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