Who do you blame if things go wrong with your client relations? I put my money that it’s the client. It’s always that files have been sent too late, the client didn’t sign off on time or they simply started the project too late. It just couldn’t be that you simply didn’t make the extra effort to get things done on time regardless the circumstances. Or maybe there is something else?
Clients are our natural scapegoats, there is no denying. They are stupid, mean, don’t know what we are talking about and always think that our job takes only a minute or those “few clicks of a mouse”. And that is regardless of what profession you are in. They are so evil in fact that everywhere you go you hear stories about how clients are the biggest nightmare of any business. Yet still, you rely on them, their business, testimonials, referrals, new prospect introductions, regular projects, and so on to survive in business.
Quite often though, clients relationships are stained and no matter what you say, in many cases, the real problem is not the client and what they do. It’s what you tell them actually.
I hinted about small promises you make before in one of the previous articles on this site, however, I decided that this topic deserves its own post to explain fully.
Let’s face it, clients take whatever you say to them literally but you often don’t mean it that way. You throw some small promise up in the air just to please the client or get a sale (actually, that’s a very common sales technique, I don’t recommend it by the way) and you forget about it almost straight away. The client will remember it though and will expect you to deliver on that.
You say yes to some small, unimportant client request, like helping them out with setting up their email accounts at the end of a project or something equally small and you forget about it, again almost instantly. Ever happened to you? Sure it has. But the client usually comes back looking for it. They were promised it and expect it done. You on the other hand now want to finish the project and get paid. Certainly, you don’t want to spend any extra time digging through the clients Microsoft Outlook settings.
Situations like that usually end in one of the two ways. You overlook your promise, eventually, get your money and leave a stain on a client relationship. You lose. Or you deliver that small additional service free of charge as you have promised but you start considering the client as pain in the neck.
And you lose again.
Why? Because from now on no matter what the client does you will consider him a lower rate one and you will service them that way. You will be reluctant to make any extra effort with any of their requests and so on. They will become ungrateful in your eyes and the last thing you will want to do is to invest more of your time in them again. The client will eventually realize that and leave you for someone else. Period.
Here is one of the most important pieces of advice I learned the hard way many years ago (don’t ask). If you want to build solid client relationships, start listening to your clients. Hide your pride deep into your pockets and stop thinking of yourself only. When it comes to selling and customer service, you don’t matter. It is your client that does. So treat them that way. Make only those promises you want to keep. Admit your own mistakes and faults. Be human, be normal, and above all, make helping out the clients your top priority.
– When was the last time you openly admitted your fault to a client?
- How often do you get annoyed or angry if the client doesn’t understand you, what you are talking about, and trying to explain and gives a completely different answer?
- Have often do you take a lead in project management to ensure that the client does their part on time instead of blaming them afterward? (Many small business owners I know go even further, they employ tools like Basecamp for one reason only, to be able to show their client that it was their fault if things went wrong with the project. Are you doing the same?)