Why it takes so long for people to get back to you
This is a very frequent complaint so I thought I’d explain a few things -this of course precludes situations in which someone (heaven forbid) is ignoring you. [As an aside, if you are trying to start a relationship and are having difficulty getting someone's attention, see 5 questions every designer must answer (revisited), and why people don't return your calls.]
If the schedule is moving too slowly for you, it could indicate miscommunication. It is possible the ball is in your court and the other party is waiting on you but you don’t realize it. Or, your partner didn’t hear back from you within an optimal (for them) time frame so your job was culled but I’ll get more into that further down. For now, here is a list of action items requiring your attention before work on your project will be resumed (or started). If the service provider has asked for any of the following items:
- More (key) information (size specs, sketches etc)
- Work Order or work modification instructions
- Approvals of any kind
your job is likely not being processed. It’s being warehoused. So, don’t assume your job is underway, it may have been shelved waiting on one or more of the above. Your job may also be stalled and pending your action if the service provider has done any of these things:
- Sent you a fit sample
- Sent you a pattern for inspection or feedback
Your job won’t be restarted until you provide feedback and direction. Until then, don’t be surprised if nobody is working on any of your projects and for a few reasons -most often boiling down to priority and payment.
Priority: Even if your projects (various styles) are not interdependent, it is possible nobody is working on your job for a few reasons. For one thing, the contractor may get the idea this isn’t as big a priority for you as it is for them. For example, let’s say you get back with your provider a week after you get the sample they sent. Very few providers can stay in business waiting for you to take a week to inspect a sample so rightly or wrongly, the provider is going to get the idea that you’re not in much of a hurry and they can fit you in as is convenient to them. In the meantime, they’ve picked up other projects or restarted other jobs that had been stalled.
The obvious solution is to get back in the queue. Address the issues and then ask if there are any other pending items that could delay your project. The provider should be able to give you an estimate of when they can work you back in. You may not realize this but with the delay, you’re at the back of the line again. You move forward in the schedule as other work goes out or of course, other projects are stalled.
Payment: If this is the first project they’ve had with you and regardless of the number of styles you gave them, the provider will likely only work on one style -essentially a test project. It is pending the outcome of that project before they will stick you in the schedule to complete the rest of it. However, this isn’t the same as a project stall. If you get back with them quickly, you don’t lose your place in line and should get preferential priority.
The biggest things contractors are concerned about with respect to the test project are payment, timeliness and feedback quality. If you’re upset about something, be professional and productive. Throwing a hissy fit is a bad strategy at this point since we get too much drama as it is. Paying promptly is important; we ascertain in advance that one has the budget to proceed but as experience has shown, it doesn’t mean one pays when asked to. In fact, being slow pay counts against you. Once your past due is paid up, one isn’t excited by the prospect of scheduling a job that is likely to induce the experience all over again.
But I digress. I wished to go into timeliness because I really don’t think people understand what this means. By way of example, DEs frequently complain that providers favor larger customers. I would say this is true -but mostly not for the reasons you may think. Unfortunately, DEs think it is all about money, a bigger job, bigger profit or whatever. Going with a larger customer is a cognitive shortcut if only because larger companies are usually indicative of a better educated customer (they’ve been around long enough to have learned and grown).
You want to know what the real problem is? It’s the turn around between needing to know an answer versus getting it. A larger customer responds quickly because this is their day job. That’s what you’re up against in having to do this on the side. If I have a question, I can call my day-job customer and get an answer in five minutes. Or maybe 30. Or maybe the next morning at start of business. I don’t have to reschedule my entire work load to wait a week or two or even a month or more to get an answer. With day-job customers, there is the presumption that there will be fewer work stoppages waiting on the customer.
Stopping and restarting jobs is very inefficient. Becoming accustomed to these lags was the biggest adjustment I had to make in working with smaller firms; it’s taken me years to figure out that this is the new normal. Anyway, this is a big reason why providers like “larger” customers. It’s the money alright but only indirectly in that they have the volume to not need another job. I truly understand the difficulties you have when starting up but you should get back to your provider ASAP. By ASAP, I mean five minutes. Really. Because that’s what other customers are doing. We’re used to being able to get someone on the phone when we need them.
I think most customers think their job will be resumed if not immediately, very soon (assuming they even realize work on their project has ceased, some don’t!) after they resolve whatever roadblock there was. To that I say maybe, maybe not. It depends on what else they’ve got going on. You may have to wait until there is a slot open in their schedule and depending on how many work stoppages you’ve had, or payment issues, it could be longer than you like. More than anything though, you don’t want a contractor to become habituated to long response time turn arounds because they’ll get the idea your project isn’t time dependent.