You Can’t Escape From Customer Service

I worked in retail from the ago of 16 to the age of 26.

On one hand, I loved it. I got to be helpful every day and make it easier for people to get what they need.

On the other hand, it was completely draining.

As the hours tick on, you start asking yourself:

  • Why are people so needy?
  • Did they even try to help themselves first?
  • Why do they think their problem is my problem?
  • Can’t I just get 5 minutes of peace to do the other parts of my job?

When I left retail to start my own business, I thought I was escaping the constant grind of customer service. But I quickly realized that web design and consulting clients have customer service needs too.

Except that…

…instead of those needs being constrained to a big box store, those needs were popping up in my inbox at any time of day.

I found myself depleted by managing clients––just like in retail.

That’s when I started to move toward online courses and group coaching.

It’s the same move lots of people make. They feel like clients are draining and overbearing so they opt for something that feels less personal.

Unfortunately… that just means that, now instead of 10 clients who have customer service needs, you have 50 or 100 customers who have customer service needs.

All this to say that I think many of us have realized that customer service isn’t something you can escape.

Even when you hire someone to manage billing questions, technology problems, or even aspects of product delivery, you’re still going to have your hands in customer service on a regular basis.

And that’s not a bad thing!

Knowing what our customers’ needs are is vital to the health of any business. Experiencing their frustration or joy alongside them helps us stay connected to our products or services. Maintaining real relationships with the people who are buying from our businesses means we have people to run new ideas by and cheerleaders for future endeavors.

Honestly, I really did try to escape. I wanted my customers to be served generously. I just didn’t want to be the person to do it.

And I lost ground because of it. I’ve spent the last couple of years reinserting myself in different parts of our customer service process. I greet members, I respond to emails, I manage sales processes. And because of it, I have a much better idea of who are customers are, what they need, and how we can serve them.

You can’t escape customer service––nor should you want to.

But to make it work, you’ve got to have a streamlined process and you have to have boundaries.

With gratitude,

Tara McMullin
Founder, What Works


Time is always an issue. Between the space you want to make for creative activities, the time it takes to actually run the business, and the time it takes to deliver your product or service, there’s not much left over. That’s especially true for Ashley Gartland who runs her business on about 20 hours per week. That’s why I wanted to ask her how she’s streamlined her client experience process over the years. This one is worth a listen just to hear how she uses Trello as her client dashboard.

🎧 Click here to listen.


Great client experience is not about people pleasing. It’s not being everything to everyone. It’s not about always being available or doing whatever a client asks you to do. Unfortunately, we get that mixed up all the time. So I asked Nicole Lewis-Keeber, who works on issues like people pleasing with her clients, for help on how to establish clear boundaries, have difficult conversations, and renegotiate relationships when its necessary.

🎧 Click here to listen.


I’m committed to making some big changes in the way I think & act right now––things like adjusting how motivated by praise I am or how I create (or don’t) welcoming spaces for everyone. These changes are so big that taking action on them is pretty overwhelming. So my first step is just to notice. Notice when I’m doing something because I want praise, notice when people around me are uncomfortable, notice when I say or do something that contributes to a bigger problem. If I can’t notice it, I can’t change it. This works, of course, for smaller and more tactical changes too. This article from Lara Heacock spells it out.

👓 Click here to read.


We have a massive opportunity: the way you represent yourself & your business on the ‘net is the way people will think about it. Don’t want people to feel like they’re talking to a bot? Stop marketing like a bot. Don’t want people to assume you’ve got a tiny operation and can’t handle a bigger client? Stop marketing like a tiny operation. I loved these 3 simple––but sorely underutilized––tips from Ann Handley on the Emma blog.

👓 Click here to read.


I’ll be sitting down with Notion expert Marie Poulin and What Works own operations master Shannon Paris to take you behind-the-scenes of how the What Works team manages our full editorial calendar––podcast, community events, member contributions, communication, this newsletter, and more––tomorrow, November 8 at 1pm Eastern/10am Pacific. Join us!

🎥 Click here to register.

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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