Game Music Jobs: Customer Service
Welcome to Game Music Jobs! We are coming to an end of the Tenets of Occupational Professionalism series. This will be the first of the final two. It may behoove you to listen to our previous lessons to pick up the general theme of our series.
Today’s Tenet is Customer Service. You know, that thing we all hope for but are routinely denied. Look no further than your local restaurant full of underpaid and therefore disgruntled workers. Customer service is a balance of social politics. On the one hand, we have the server trying to work while maintaining rightful dignity. And on the other hand, we have customers trying to judge their worth to an establishment by their server’s efforts, and, if they are good customers, trying not to become indignant at minor service-related faux pas. Ultimately, this complicated relationship is not about the food or even the money; it’s about how people treat each other—how one person relates to another. For example: no worker wants to be chewed out by a Kool-Aid-Man-shaped Homo sapiens with just enough breath to gripe about his missing extra cheese. And no customer wants to ask a mean-mugging server for a refill, only to be told what to kiss and where to go.
Excellent customer service requires enough personal and professional awareness to anticipate the needs of your customers and meet them. Your clients may be of a different sort, but the fundamentals are similar.
I recommend books to read because they can give you more insight into solving business issues than I can in my short essays. An excellent book to read about customer service is Frank Bettger’s How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success by Selling. Frank lays out volumes of practical advice for business owners. This is for your advantage because that’s what you are, a business owner. Music is business.
The list of the various ways you can assist your customers is as long as my arm, but not quite as thick, so yet again, I will note three practical tidbits for your edification. Composers must sell themselves by necessity, but your bread and butter is not selling but servicing.
1. People will make time for the things that matter to them.
Do you ever try to contact somebody for business, but they don’t have time for you? Well, it could be that they don’t, or perhaps you have not presented anything to interest them. When directors tell you what they desire for the soundscape of a scene, make sure to listen. If you don’t make time to listen, the director may get the impression you are not taking the project seriously. What most directors desire is an interpreter for their incoherent compositional yearnings. Always go above and beyond for your clients, and sometimes it is OK to add your own flare to the music (if it is appropriate). He made time for you; now you must make time to complete your project expeditiously.
2. Customers will always find a way to afford the things they want.
The last tenet we discussed was negotiation, and it goes manus in manu with what I said above. Make yourself a reputation for being indispensable as a composer so that directors will find ways to afford your services. If a movie producer offered John Williams a pittance for his services, I’m sure Mr. Williams would start talking in the key of F. Make sure you have the skill to demand the type of compensation you desire. You don’t want to talk bigger than you can deliver. Remember this so you don’t end up the key of B Flat, meaning real-world broke.
3. Respect the support staff.
Support staff, like the Cheetos stains on some people’s sweatpants, are there for a reason—because it works for them. In some larger companies, you may not have direct access to the chief developer, and you may be paired with a programmer or game design director. These offices may vary depending on the organization, but if you have a concern, whenever possible, work with the people according to the chain of responsibility. Why? Because it was put there for a reason, and if some people see you creating disorder, they may choose to restore it by getting rid of you. Now, if you are working in a small company consisting of a few hunchbacked programmers, you would look mighty stupid going through the chain of command when a simple nod and gesture would suffice. Use discretion.
I hope you noticed that this list contains more than basic advice like be on time, shine your shoes, and don’t steal office supplies! Good customer service requires you to look from another perspective. This is why I wrote the advice from an employer’s perspective, as a service interpretive exercise for you. As I said before in a previous essay, the best advice is to find out what the director wants and give to him.
I will end with this proverb: He who strikes his reflection in anger will soon see his true image. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Reflect on it.