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 are a slew of tips from 25 years of managing client service.
Must Win vs. Checklist Clients
Be selective in who you work with. A client who needs your service in order 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? What do you excel at? 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?
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.
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 of 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.
Always give yourself time to understand a commitment before making it.
Use your experiences to educate clients about how the project will flow and how to keep things on track.
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 why 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.
Rationales are key on both sides. Clients who are in need of a change should be asked 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.
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.