The other day a client of mine asked if I could work with an associate of his. Of course, I was happy to. But the striking thing about this was why the organization he was introducing was eager to leave the web firm they were working with.
“The current vendors,” my client explained, “talk down to members.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this kind of thing, but I’d like it to be the last. Perhaps we could all make New Year’s Resolutions to keep the web — or at least web work — courteous.
Here’s the least you should expect from your web team:
- They should respect you and your knowledge in your field, whether you happen to be knowledgeable about their field or not. You will doubtless do the same.
- They should explain unfamiliar terms clearly when asked. Ideally, they should use normal English when they talk to you. If they slip up, though, they should be prepared to clarify whatever jargon-laced thing they’ve said, without behaving as though you should have known that. You, in turn, should remember that people sometimes forget they’re using jargon, and speak up if you get confused.
- They should accept your ideas about their field, and be willing to explain what they’re doing, within reason. Lots of humor among web people is about clients who have some vague idea about web practices and how much trouble they cause. Your web people should appear never to have heard of this type of humor, and not to find it funny. You, if you hear these jokes while you’re studying up on what your web people are doing, should stop doing anything you recognize.
- They should be able to cope with cultural or geographical differences, if that happens to be a factor. Checking on your time zone, recognizing the existence of holidays, double-checking on slang they’re not sure of, following the spelling conventions of your country or of your corporate handbook — all of these are reasonable adjustments.
- They should try to work on a normal time schedule. Many web workers have very abnormal schedules, and of course there are often time zone issues to complicate matters. But when your web people say “I’ll have it for you tomorrow,” they should not mean midnight. Or next week. You, in return, should not get so dependent on their abnormal schedules that you think they are required by law to work nights and weekends. When I get an email at 11:00 p.m. and a “Didn’t you get my email?” at 3:00 a.m., I feel nagged. Unless it’s from the Southern hemisphere, in which case see the point above.
As long as clients accept being talked down to, it’ll continue to happen. Together, we can stop that. It’ll make the web a better place to work.