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Supporting Policies – The Sunday Snatch

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Policies should be bae

Recently I was called a “customer boundaries hero” by some ladies in a Facebook group I belong to, after I gave some suggestions on a particular topic. What to do when a client gets ghost at certain milestones during a project.

The first woman who called me her hero, I was like nah not me. After the third time, I thought, I just may be. 

Auntee Rik is a customer boundaries hero

Thing is, I have a lot of experience as an employee (25ish years) and a lot of work for myself experience (13 years and counting). Throw in my knack for risk management (aka a professional hater – everyone should have one on their team), and a certain degree of bougieness (vern), I’ve found ways to protect myself and my clients through the use of boundaries, aka policies.

Some may think my policies are hardass, but they are effective and save me massive headaches on the back end. And let’s be clear; I don’t arbitrarily pull rules out of the sky. Previous clients and experiences elsewhere have made them necessary. Know what happens when I deviate from my rules? Problems, that’s what.

Auntee Note: the rules are for everyone. There are times you may have to be even firmer with the people you know and love, because they will TRY you.

Developing your Policies

Once you have defined your CX (customer experience) and outlined the CJ (customer journey), it’s time to create policies that support them. This is the part that will also support you when platforms aren’t available. Not totally outage-proof, but can help you recover faster. Exactly what these policies are going to be depend on your business, your industry and your client base. I’m keeping it very general here, but answering these questions will get you started.

Onboarding: we go together now
  • At what point does a potential client turn into an actual client?\
  • What do you need to start the job?

For me, it’s once I have received their signed contract, their content , and the deposit has cleared.

Payments: all about The Benjamins
  • What methods of payment will you accept?
  • When is payment due?
  • What happens if payment is late?
  • What happens if payment fails?
  • Do you have a backup form of accepting payments?
  • When do you purchase items needed to complete the job?
  • How will you handle the things that the client needs to purchase to complete the job?
Refunds: we like to avoid this, but sometimes...
  • Will you offer refunds?
  • For what time frame is a refund available?
  • What does a client/customer need to do in order to request a refund?
  • How will refunds happen?
  • What happens if the client/customer files a dispute with their bank, PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc?
  • Do you know how your payment processor handles disputes and chargebacks?

Note: if you are using Venmo or CashApp for business transactions and have not read or do not understand the terms of service, please do that after you finish reading this email.

Exchanges: can we take it back?
  • Are exchanges possible?
  • What are the conditions that need to be met?
  • Are there costs associated with an exchange? Who will be responsible for paying for those?
Absences: the art of ghosting

Commonly known as “ghosting” in the service provider community. For the purpose of this exercise, ghosting applies to clients under contract, not someone who asks about services then disappears.

  • What period of time has to pass before you consider yourself ghosted?
  • What steps need to be completed if that client comes back and wants to be reinstated on your current projects pipeline?
  • How long will they have to wait to get back on your production calendar?
  • Is there a cost involved to reinstate them? How much? Does it depend on how long they have been gone?

I have a 2 business day response time; the project goes on hold after 10 days. After 15 days, there’s a restart fee. After 21 days, it’s a new project, payable in full

Delivery: how are they going to get their stuff?
  • How will you deliver your product or service?
  • Is there a cost associated with your method of delivery?
  • Who will be responsible for paying that delivery fee?
  • What happens if someone claims they did not receive their order?
Customer Support: help 'em out
  • How will you provide customer support?
  • How does a client/customer contact you for support?
  • What is and is not covered under customer support?
  • Do you have a third party to refer clients/customers to for support? Is that information readily available?

I don’t normally do tech support for sites I did not build because of the many different ways a WordPress site can be built, and the amount of hours that can be racked up trying to diagnose before anything can be fixed… that does not spark joy for me.

Backups: when things fall apart
  • Do you have a backup method of delivery?
  • For digital items, how many times and for how long will a client be able to access their files?

I share a Dropbox folder with my logo clients with instructions that they need to download the files to their computer within 30 days. My obligation to keep up with those files ends with the transfer of the deliverables. And yes, people have contacted me 3-5 years after a logo design project has ended, or because they deleted their files.

Thanks to a failed external hard drive back in 2012, I tend to be a little extra with backups, like… I save to two cloud storage platforms, an external hard drive, a USB and burn to a DVD for some items. Yup. Ridiculous… until a need arises.

Also, it’s better to have something and not need it than it is to need it and not have it. Thanks to new privacy laws, most platforms you use allow you to download your data. You should schedule a time to do this regularly and have at least 2 places to store these files. At the least, you should download your data files from:

  • Social media accounts you use
  • Your newsletter/email marketing providers
  • Your CRM (customer relationship management platform, like Dubsado)
  • Your financial accounts (bank, PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc)
  • Your address books from your phone(s)
  • Your website and content: If you’re using a platform other than WordPress (the standalone, paid version), there probably isn’t a way to download your content all at once. Not a big deal until a server crashes hard or an investor decides they want you to use a different platform. I know it’s easier to make changes and updates on the fly, but carve out some time on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly depending on how often you update) to copy over – literally copy and paste – your text content and download images to keep as a backup.
Communication: the glue that holds everything together...

Communication is how you pull of the pieces of your policies together.

  • How will you communicate with current clients/customers?
  • Will you accept change requests?
  • How will you accept change requests?
  • How many points of contact will you deal with on a project?

You may have a client that has more than one person that needs to make decisions/see samples, etc. For me, I only deal with one person. At times I may need to extend the response time window because a meeting may need to be called before they can give feedback. That’s fine. But what I don’t do is accept emails, phone calls or text messages from 3-5 different people on the same project. Before we get started they have to appoint that ONE person. In these instances I may also make provision for an emergency alternate contact.

Imagine if your technology was reduced to just your phone. No apps. No text. What are you going to do?

  • Are you able to access important phone numbers – clients and vendors – in a crunch?

 

  • Are you using auto-responders on your email accounts (especially the ones for business)?
  • Do you keep your auto-responders updated?
  • Do you have someone that can send an email, text, or phone message on your behalf if you have an emergency and are unable to attend to it right away?

For the most part, social media is used for marketing. If a platform stops working for a spell there’s not much you can do to grab new clientele, but you can talk to your existing base through alternate channels. It helps to have a plan for that before the next outage, so the inconvenience doesn’t become more than that.

Now, if you are someone who solely conducts business on social media channels, my suggestion is that you find an alternate way or three to make those sales in the event of an outage.

I know this is a lot to digest… running a business is a LOT. When you make time to handle policies before you need them, even if you can’t avoid a situation from happening, you will have the opportunity to recover from it faster.

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Hi! I'm Rikki (Auntee Rik to some) and as a Freelance Operations Consultant, I help business owners reduce Admin Anxiety and get their life (their words). With over 20 years experience in Operations, brand and web design, I've found that using song titles, lyrics and lines from TV and movies as reference points makes the very unsexy job of Ops and Admin a little more palatable.

 

Operations Consulting and Guided Instruction for Service Providers who cry in the shower when having to still answer inquiry emails after getting lit at the day party is too much.

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