You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
— John Lydgate
As an aside — when I was researching the correct attribution of this quote, I was interested to learn that, according to Wikipedia, the Oxford English Dictionary cites Lydgate with the earliest record of using the word talent in reference to a gifted state of natural ability.
Lydgate’s quote was on my mind because of the first of the trip-related stories that I wanted to write. In your voice-over business, do you have a level of service that you provide to your clients? Do you guarantee your clients’ satisfaction with your work? Have you done any contingency planning so that you can provide your voice-over recordings to your clients in the event of unexpected delays?
I have not written terms of service for my voice-over business, but I strive to ensure that every client is totally delighted with the work I perform. Ever heard of the phrase ‘the show must go on’? If someone has booked your time, a professional talent doesn’t call in sick and leave the client hanging in the face of a deadline.
In contrast, many large corporations have extensive written terms of service that their customers should expect. Human error, mechanical problems and forces of nature can cause the terms of service to decline or sometimes disappear.
Prior to our recent Greek Isles cruise, Drew and I flew non-stop on Delta Airlines from Atlanta to Athens, Greece. Originally, we were ticketed to fly three segments, two of which were on Delta’s partner airline, Air France. However, weather delays at the Atlanta airport would have caused us to miss the longest segment from Washington, DC to Paris, France. Delta did the right thing to act quickly and rebook us for its own non-stop flight.
Unfortunately, our luggage was not rebooked with us. After a 10-hour flight, we arrived in Athens with only the clothes on our backs. New security regulations prevent passengers from taking even basic toiletries such as toothpaste in carry-on luggage. In all of our travels, we have never taken a change of clothes in carry-on luggage; after this experience, we’ll probably change that practice.
Drew filing the claim for our luggage in Athens
To shorten this story, we adopted the attitude that life wasn’t so bad if our worst problem was that we were on vacation in Athens, Greece, wearing the same clothes for a couple of days. We went sight-seeing and had a marvelous time. Our luggage finally showed up at our hotel 36 hours after we did.
Delta has an impressive web page which outlines in detail its customer commitment, which states
We have outlined our responsibilities and how we will fulfill them below in 12-key points. We intend to ensure that your air travel experience will encompass, to the best of our abilities, the most comprehensive customer service possible.
It sounds great until one reads just a little further and finds this jarring sentence:
Note: Delta Customer Commitment applies to domestic travel only.
Is Delta saying it has no customer commitment to its international passengers? If a business operates under the assumption that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, why bother trying? I wouldn’t say you should expect to please ALL of the people, but you should make the effort if the people you are not pleasing are in the subset of people in your client base.
We fly Delta almost exclusively and usually experience no problems. Surprisingly, though, this experience was the second time in 15 months that Delta delayed our luggage prior to a cruise. The first time, the luggage was on the next flight and didn’t cause us any real hardship.
I wrote to Delta Baggage Services about our situation. While we can never get back the 36 hours we were in a foreign country without luggage, we received a nice letter of apology and, as a measure of Delta’s goodwill, some vouchers toward a future flight. The letter also said that we could be reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses we had incurred as a result of the delay. I have decided that regardless of the statement on its web site to the contrary, Delta really does have customer commitment to its international passengers after all!
Like all of my personal stories, this one has some connection to your voice-over business. A voice-over talent lives by the clock. We think in terms of spots that run :30 and :60, which really are a half-second shorter. We work with producers who want things today, in 2 hours, in an hour, as soon as you can get it done, NOW. Union contracts specify rates half-hour increments. If you must book time at a studio, you pay rates by the half-hour or hour.
If you were the cause of an hour delay on a project, you might receive a lot of negative publicity and potentially a cut in pay. Can you imagine the long-term repercussions to your voice-over business if you caused a 36-hour delay to a client?
Delays are an inescapable fact of life. Have you thought about safeguards so that you don’t cause a delay?
Your contingency planning for delays and other unavoidable problems can be your saving grace in the eyes of your client.
What will you do if your Internet connection suddenly goes down, and you can’t deliver your recordings when you promised? Do you have some sort of back-up delivery method? Sometimes a client might accept a CD by overnight mail. I have even hand-delivered a CD to clients in town. If I needed to deliver something today to someone in another city, depending on where I am, I might take my file to a friend’s house, a studio, an office supply center, a coffee shop, a hotel business office or potentially a library in order to transmit the file to the waiting client. My possibilities of getting Internet access in a hurry are endless. Write these access points down in a calm period so you will have a list if you need it.
Here’s another scenario for you: What do you do when a client contacts you and needs a recording that you can’t produce in the time allotted because you are ill, on vacation or swamped with other projects? When this situation has happened to me, I am prepared for it because I can refer my client to another professional voice talent whom I trust. We have a reciprocal agreement as she has called on me in similar circumstances.
The clients are grateful for the referral, and I haven’t lost a client by providing this service. Instead, I have kept their projects on schedule by saving them audition time and directing them to someone I’m confident would do a good job.
Are you making regular backups of your computer’s hard drive? I’ll let you in on a secret: The only day that you need to make a backup is the day before your system crashes! Trust me — if you’re working on a long narration project or an audiobook, you will want to copy those edited files to another drive, CD, DAT or backup tape.
If a client lets you know that work you completed did not meet expectations, how do you respond? Do you guarantee your work? I recall one occasion where I voiced a narration while recovering from severe congestion. My client called a few weeks later and asked me to re-record certain parts where the congestion affected my speech. However, he was thrilled that I decided to re-record the whole thing so that the tonality of sound would match throughout the recording.
I don’t try to please all of the people all of the time. I prefer instead to concentrate my efforts on pleasing that select group of people known as my voice-over clients. I even have the same level of delay-free, customer commitment to both domestic and international clients. 🙂