Working for “internal” clients

Juan Orozco
Juan Orozco

My experience with designing for profit comes mostly from “external” clients.  In my current position, though, I work with more “internal” clients. If you’re not familiar with the difference, in my example, I work with and for the people requesting my services.  It’s a different dynamic, yes, but it doesn’t change the customer service aspect of the entire interaction.

In my current position, I deal a lot with different departments asking for updates, new pages, or just general consulting for their pages on the site.  When it comes to my relationship with them, I treat the situation as if it was a freelancer-client relationship - respectful and professional, but friendly.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed others handling the same situation in the opposite manner.  It perplexes me when I see that – that type of situation blocks innovation, creativity, and beneficial relationships.

The interactions can be broken down into so many different elements. I’m going to focus on my biggest two, listening and speaking.

First, and probably most important, never dismiss their thoughts and opinions.  It’s hard enough to think of new and exciting ideas by yourself, why would you block possible inspiration?  Hear them out to the end, tell them you’ll take it under consideration and then ACTUALLY consider their ideas.  Whether the ideas get used or not depends on the project, but one must always be open to outside influences lest become stale.

Second, although these clients are considered coworkers, they still require your services.  Treating everyone with the same respect will go a long way professionally and personally.  Also, getting tasks done is easier and, dare I say, enjoyable when people are in friendlier moods. So, speak respectfully, regardless of how little they know about the service you offer.  Our job is to filter through their request and find the problems and solutions, that means understanding the client too.

I know customers/clients can be a pain and I’m not below making fun of some of the silly ones, or talking a little smack about the aggravating ones (not in public, ever.).  I still respect them - in the end it’s their requests that keeps me working.