How to Completely Frustrate Your Clients

How to Completely Frustrate Your Clients

For all my years of experience, I completely understand why many people end up feeling frustrated, confused and absolutely unable to move forward. It isn’t because they don’t have the money to get where they need to be.

It’s that they don’t have the knowledge they require.

You want to make a video like all the cool kids do… and you don’t know where to begin. You want to get a small website going… and you don’t know the first thing about installing one. You want host a webinar… and you don’t even know how the damned software works.

Okay, fine. You don’t know how to do what you want to do. The next logical step is to ask someone for help.

So you do… except you can’t understand a word they say.

Everyone’s talking over your head and making horrible assumptions that you actually know more than you really do. You get tech-speak, industry jargon, and complicated instructions you can’t make heads or tails of – ones that often miss crucial steps everyone thinks you clearly should know by some magical osmosis.

You try to tell people that you don’t understand a word of their instructions or how to actually get this software going and they give you more baffling explanations that only add to the problem. Or they get arrogantly lofty and treat you like an idiot.

You can’t get straight answers. You can’t find help.

So what happens next? Naturally – and completely understandably – you give up.

Why – for the love of Pete, why?! – can’t anyone talk to you like a regular human being? Why can’t anyone break down the technical complexities into ultra-simple step-by-step instructions? Why can’t someone give you the ‘for-dummies’ version?

I don’t know. I really don’t. And I completely empathize with your frustration.

You’d think the pros who want your business and referrals would be keen to help you and break it all down into language you understand. You’d think they’d want to teach you, to help you feel in control and good about them. You’d think they’d want you to become a satisfied, loyal client who tells everyone what awesome service and support they provide.

For some reason, they don’t seem to care.

They don’t care that you don’t know what you’re doing. They feel like you should already know what they’re talking about – after all, you’re on the internet now. You should have a clue. A big clue. And if you don’t, you must be some stupid idiot who should feel ashamed.

You shouldn’t. A lack of knowledge is nothing to be ashamed of.

The unwillingness to share knowledge definitely is.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel, if you’re in business, you have a responsibility to help people move forward. You have an obligation to answer questions properly, in terms people understand.

When a client asks me how to set up an Aweber list or to explain what FTP means and how it works, I don’t sling them a URL to some complicated set of instructions. I don’t make them feel ignorant.

I take the time to write them an email that breaks down every little step. They’re my client, for god’s sake – of course I’m going to help them if they ask!

Yes, I’m human. Sometimes I make assumptions that people know more than they do. Many people who don’t really have a clue often pretend they do, just so the other person doesn’t think they’re ‘silly’ or ‘stupid’ for not knowing. For sure, that makes it hard to tell who knows what these days.

So when a client specifically says, “I don’t understand. I’m just not getting this. Could you explain?” I’m happy to explain in easier-to-understand terms, using analogies and comparisons and 1-2-3 steps. I put myself in their shoes. I try to bring them from lack of knowledge to, “OH! I get it now, thanks!”

Speaking in simple language is a business responsibility.

I wish other businesses felt that sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, most don’t.

Five separate recent incidents left me with a sour, disgruntled taste in my mouth. Support staff and service providers talked over my head. They sent me overly-complex emails that left me blinking at the screen, completely baffled.

Even after I sent specific requests for less complicated explanations – even after telling these people I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t understand a word they’d said – they still couldn’t “dumb it down”. It made me feel they just couldn’t be bothered and didn’t care about me as a client.

I was very frustrated not to be able to get the help I needed.

So do me (and your clients) a favor: If you’re one of those people talking over everyone’s head, stop it. Speak in simple terms. Watch for those “I’m confused” signals from your clients – they’re easy to spot. Don’t overlook them. Answer them. Use language people understand.

Go down to the “I’m clueless” level to help people rise above it.

And if you can’t be bothered to give good customer service where you help your clients feel happy, informed and in control… then what the hell are you doing in business?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Hi James,

    You’re right on the money (as usual).

    Back in the day, I used to answer phones for a technical support company. I’d always ask questions like, “Do you see ‘A,’ ‘B,’ or are you not sure?” I liked giving people permission to say “I have no flipping idea what you’re talking about.”

    I was helping my dad fix his computer one day, and I asked him this question. He said, “Whatever question you’re planning on asking me… the answer is ‘I’m not sure.'”

    It’s a safe bet that people don’t know what you’re saying half the time. Patience, going one step at a time, and giving people permission to feel clueless without feeling stupid have served me well.

    One tool that I use: when I know I’m giving information that may be misunderstood, I finish the sentence or email with, “Makes sense?” For email, I add: “Please don’t hesitate to email if you have any questions.”

    That way, people can say, “No, dude. That doesn’t make sense at all! Um…what???”

  2. Okay James, what does FTP mean? (Sr. Virginette wouldn’t approve of my first guess.)

    You are so on target with this message. I remember finally getting the courage to sign up for my first online course. It was called, “Blogging 101” or something. After sending in my payment, the instructor wrote to “practice setting up a blog or two before the first class.” What a joke. If I knew how to set up “a blog or two” I wouldn’t be signing up for the class. I immediately asked for a refund because I knew I was in over my head and this instructor wasn’t going to be a good match.

    Appreciate you, Jesse and other kind souls and great teachers who help those of us who struggle.

  3. I think expertise is marked by describing/explaining things as simply as necessary, especially for something technical or complex. I find that using too much jargon is a sign of not fully understanding something on the part of the person explaining. At least have multiple ways of talking about something, depending on the knowledge level of the person asking, or how many times a thing has to be explained.

    • True, Matthew. Or, it could be a sign that someone lacks confidence in himself. He hides behind big words to make himself feel better. Tech “gurus” do this all the time. So do flash in the pan internet marketers. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” is much more powerful than flowery words that hide a lack of true expertise.

      Those who know…do.
      Those who don’t…teach.
      I’ll add one more:
      Those who are true experts, teach in a way non-experts can understand.

      • Yeah, I love that quote about doing vs. teaching. People don’t really mind a person who’s honest enough to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” We’re always learning.

  4. I really love your article. There shouldn’t be shame in not knowing- especially when you’re taking steps to learn. Many in the tech industry make the false assumption that if I call them, I must already speak their language, when in fact, I’m calling them because I DON’T speak their language. If I did, I most likely wouldn’t need their expertise. I agree with Jesse– the true experts are those who can explain complex things in simplified terms.

  5. This post is timely, because I’ve found myself working with two clients who I’m pretty sure have no idea what I’m talking about. They’re very smart people. They have PhDs. So, it’s clearly an issue of unclear communication. That’s my job and I still find it hard! Thanks for the post. Good reminders.


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