If you work in a web shop, then you work with clients. It can be easy to blame them when things go wrong. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. No client gives your company a big wad of cash and then plots how to undermine the team. They want you to win because it means they win!
With that in mind, here is a slew of tips from 25 years of client service.
Must Win Versus Checklist Clients Choose who you work with carefully. A client who needs your service to succeed in business is much easier to work with than one who just has an assignment.
Start With A Clean Slate Don’t bring any baggage with you into the new relationship.
Understand Your Strengths And Weaknesses What mistakes do you constantly make? Where do you excel? Make sure and have a plan to keep you on top of your game.
Know Your Team What motivates them? What do they do great? What bogs them down?
Know Your Client Ask about previous projects. Ask what their fears are. Why did they select you? What do they have to accomplish for this to be a success?
Common Pitfalls If there are things that go wrong frequently, talk with your clients about them up front. Together you can work to avoid the problems.
Clarity Over Comfort Always be extremely clear in what a client should expect. Never avoid the tough discussions.
Be On The Same Team Managing a project is like a game of frisbee, everyone is working together to keep things from hitting the ground.
Establish Trust Learn who your clients are and what they like. Understand their knowledge level of the work you’ll be doing together. Avoid terminology they don’t understand. Take the time to explain things clearly.
Be Honest And Nice Always share the truth in a clear manner. Being honest is not the opposite of being nice, but too often people feel that they should sugarcoat or position the truth. Don’t. Just say it with a smile.
Address Issues Early Unexpected things will happen during your project. Once you know the details and have a plan for correcting the issue, share it with your client immediately.
Keep All Commitments Or Renegotiate Them Everything is a commitment. From being on time to a meeting to replying to an email in a timely manner. If you can’t keep a commitment, renegotiate immediately.
Don't Overcommit Always give yourself time to understand a commitment before making it.
Tell Stories Use your experiences to educate clients about how the project will flow and how to keep things on track.
Don't Rush Take the time you need to do great work. Manage expectations around schedules early and often.
Have A Rationale For Everything There is always a reason you do something a certain way or make a specific recommendation. Take the time to explain it. It will build confidence with the client and keep things running smoothly.
Silence Is The Enemy Clients fill silence with concern. Update them frequently, even if it’s just to tell them things are on schedule.
Manage Scope Creep With A Smile Don’t shut down a client idea without listening to it and understanding its impact on the timeline and budget. Listen and share the impact of implementing the idea. Let the client make the decision on how to proceed.
Separate The Client From The Problem When things go wrong, work together with the client to correct the situation. Don’t blame them.
Ask Why Rationales are key on both sides. Clients who request a change should explain the benefit of their recommendation.
Be Firm But Fair The client won’t always be right, but they are always important.
Don't Be A Buzzer Beater Client’s don’t expect you to have all the answers. Leverage the knowledge from the team or conduct research when more information is needed to make a good decision.
Reply Now, Answer Later When a client sends an important message, don’t ignore it. Reply back that you’ve received it and need some time to think about the best response.
Never Email When You Should Call If you ask someone to read a message before you send it, delete that message and pick up the phone. Being able to hear someone’s voice and being able to respond in real time is critical for tough conversations.
Own Your Mistakes When things go wrong, and they will, don’t blame anyone. Own the mistake and the resolution.
Be Thoughtful Always look at things from the client’s perspective. If you just screwed something up, it’s probably not a great time to send an invoice.
And … exhale. That’s a lot of tips to try to incorporate, but you know the ones that will help you the most. Always remember that the client wants you to succeed and you’ll be surprised how much smoother your projects go.