I hired this person to help with my project, but their results suck, and it’s costly and exhausting

Upfronting

UPFRONTING@2x

The Context

Let's talk about the payback of possibility. The more we give people to work with, the more they can do for us. The easier we make people’s jobs, the better work they will do for us. Whether we’re interacting with web developers, photographers, graphic designers, videographers, virtual assistants or mentors, the smartest thing we can do is give people everything. To open ourselves completely, fill their palette to the brim and give them as much raw material as possible. It’s never a bad idea to be a good customer. How can we help them help us?

The Tool

two color

Upfronting

UPFRONTING — Giving more frontend raw material our creative collaborators so they can do more for us

Companies spend millions of dollars every year on customer service education. And it really works. Organizations hire trainers to conduct workshops for their staff, and customer service scores almost always increased within a few weeks of the programs. But what's amazing is how little time and energy is focused on the reverse. Nobody really teaches us how to become better customers ourselves, which is an underrated life skill. If we want to increase the return on experience on the other side of the cash register, then we can’t just sit back and wait for service providers to read our minds and make us happy. We ask ourselves the leverage question, how can we help them help us? As guests, patients, viewers, clients, patrons, members, visitors, users, callers, listeners, customers, whatever, we have to proactively make ourselves more serviceable. Otherwise we’re equally at fault for not getting what we want, the way we want it. Take a standard massage parlor. It's amazing how often customers walk out the door and whine about having a poor experience. About how the massage therapist never does it the way they like it. Can you believe that masseuse talked the whole time? How am I supposed to relax? And my thought is always, well, whose fault is that? Is it possible you had a bad experience because you don't know how to be a good customer? Is it possible you didn't get your needs met because you didn't speak up? Look, it's simple. If you don’t want your massage therapist yapping your ear off, then you need to speak up and let her know that silence is essential to your relaxation. Otherwise you'll lay there on the table, growing resentful at her for being chatty and not reading your mind, and ruin the entire experience. If you're not willing to take three seconds before the massage starts and announce to your therapist that you prefer silence, then it's your fault the experience sucks, not theirs.

I once did an interview for a tabloid style business journal. When they sent a copy in the mail, I was excited to see that my headshot filled the entire front page. Having no expectation of getting that much ink, I called the art director to personally thank him. Wow, nobody’s ever made my head the whole cover before. And he said, nobody’s ever sent a high resolution photo before.

The Rest

It comes down to expectational clarity. Being a better customer means sharing what’s important to you. Letting service providers in on your preferences in advance. And helping them delivering your unique vision of what happiness looks and feels like. That's why they're there. To serve you. It's literally what you're paying them for. But you have to meet them halfway. You have to make yourself more serviceable. Don't get mad because some stranger didn't realize that what you said wasn't actually what you meant. They just work here. How good of a customer are you?

The Benefits

Build your reputation as a good customer who’s easy and profitable to work with
Maximize your return on investment when you outsource creative tasks to suppliers
Reduce surprise and unnecessary back and forth in your working relationships
Help vendors, contractors and freelancer delivering your unique vision of what happiness looks and feels like

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