I write about IT and web development from the business, sales and marketing angle.
written by Višnja Željeznjak on March 20, 2010
I've written about the need to write and use apps without panic features. What about the clients who come rushing in with all kinds of panic-ridden requests?
We all have clients that do not function in any other mode but the panic mode. I call them "fire eaters who must eat fire". Some of your clients are so into it that they probably have custom-made Outlook stationeries with the "ASAP" watermark. We have a client who puts the word "URGENT" into every subject line of every e-mail she gets from me, before forwarding it to her colleagues. Look lady, I just said FTP access would be nice, nobody expects you to alert the Marines, ok?
Panic is poisonous and virulent. The second you succumb to other people's fake panic is the second you start dying a slow and painful death by customer support. Make every panic be Other People's Panic And Not Mine.
So, a client (or your own boss!) calls or e-mails and demands stuff to be done right this minute because it is sooo important to him. ALL CAPS sentences all over the e-mail. Bolded whole paragraphs. Words colored red. Trigger words, such as "ASAP" or "by noon". Pressing pleas or (sometimes) threats. If it quacks like a panic... Right? Wrong!
Panic fee to the rescue! You do charge extra for panic attacks, don't you? Like, "If you want us to forget every pretense of keeping our daily schedule and do this thing for you now, we will be glad to do it for you and it will cost you double, and nobody will get insulted by the price", that kind of panic fee? The only panic worth disrupting your morning routine is the one followed by "Yes yes I understand and I will pay, just do this thing for me now because it is really really important to me, thank you".
If it's anything but that, the Universe permits you to go back to reading Dilbert, guilt-free. Because the client with a fake panic attack will balk at the panic fee. Your boss will too. Time is actually priceless because you can never hope to get it back - which means that whatever your panic fee is, you're giving it cheap.
If you answer the support hotline or manage developers, know this: Every client you have is counting on you and your company to be the fake panic detector. Client B is paying you to nip client A's fake panic in the bud. And client A - she is the one in panic mode now - is paying you today to stop the client B from ruining her schedule in the future. As soon as you politely explain to the customer how panic damages everything, and how you are doing this for everybody's sake and sanity, you all win. For your own safety, publish your panic fee rules on your website and refer to it in your contracts.
Still have doubts about charging a panic fee? Think like a plumber. When an apartment gets flooded in the middle of the night and the plumber is polite enough to come over and fix the damn thing, not only does the customer not complain - he doesn't even squeak. He pays the emergency price, whatever it is. People usually don't call plumbers in the middle of the night to fix a somewhat-leaking faucet. But your clients do. Because they can. And because you let them - so charge them for it.
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