Recently, I suggested to a client that we move his website hosting to a different provider. Although the current provider was very good, there were technical – and financial – reasons why the alternative might be better for his situation.
I explained this in an email. He replied, “I assume the right answer is yes? <wink>”
Although I’d given him the reasons why I was recommending the change, he wasn’t particularly bothered about them, he only cared whether or not I thought it was the right thing to do.
That kind of trust can be quite daunting. If I make the wrong call, it could be damaging to my clients’ businesses. As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said: “With great power comes great responsibility”.
This is why trust is so essential to a good client-developer relationship.
When you drive a car, you don’t need to know how it works, you just need to know the practicalities of how to use it (e.g. how to change gear, which switches control the headlights and windscreen wipers) and what you need to do to keep it going (e.g. filling it with fuel, checking the oil and tyres, remembering your annual MOT).
Similarly, a lot of my clients don’t want to know how their website works, they just need to know how to use it. Their prime concern is, quite rightly, how to add and update content. They don’t have time or inclination to learn about all the ‘behind-the-scenes’ stuff. They have to trust me to look after that for them.
I don’t always get it right. My worst clanger was a couple of years ago when I accidentally triggered an automated email to 200 website subscribers telling them that their accounts had been deleted (they hadn’t).
In that kind of situation, there’s no point trying to point the finger elsewhere. It was my mistake, so I owned up and apologised immediately. I also did everything I possibly could to mitigate the situation, including emailing all the subscribers to explain what had happened, taking full responsibility for the mistake, and reassuring them that their accounts were safe.
Ironically, the client later cited my response to this incident as one of the reasons she trusts me!
Ultimately, there are lots of web designers and developers out there. Many of them have more knowledge and expertise than me, and I don’t pretend otherwise. But one thing that keeps my clients coming back to me is trust. They have confidence that I’ll put their interests first. That when I make a recommendation, it’s because I genuinely believe it’s the best answer for their situation. They know that I won’t push them towards an unnecessarily expensive option. That if something goes wrong, I won’t hide the problem but will deal with it. That I’ll always do my best for them.
I’m always grateful when someone trusts me to look after their website – and I’ll carry on doing my best to deserve that trust.