You’re in a position to take advantage of all the great potential this relationship can offer.
All you have to do to delight your client is offer great value, manage the process, deliver on the results, and maintain a relationship while doing so.
Many professionals think that if they work hard for the client the client will pay them well for their services and be grateful and delighted.
This isn’t always so. From a clients perspective, they might have an entirely different view of your relationship.
If it differs from yours, then you have the challenge of aligning your views so that you are both happy with what your relationship will yield.
In any engagement with the client you need to manage four areas of the “project”:
- Client expectations
- The process or methodology
- The results
- The relationship
Managing Client Expectations:
By not managing your client expectations upfront, even before you have sent a formal proposal, you are setting yourself up for failure. You need to sit down and have a very in-depth conversation with your client prior to taking on any work. During this conversation clearly define what you’re about to deliver, as well as what you are not going to be delivering. Then get feedback from the client to see whether the deliverables in fact meet expectations.
For instance, just asking your client what they consider to be exceptional service or customer service is a step in the right direction. You may find that they have higher expectation or higher standards than you do!
Getting your two points of view to approximate each other is where you should be focusing your efforts. Just a few of the questions you may ask your potential client, could be along the lines of:
- What do they expect your services/product will provide for them?
- What is their schedule for these deliverables being delivered?
- How often do they want you to communicate to them?
- In what format do they want you to communicate – report, verbal, etc?
- How do they want to be invoiced?
- What do they consider to be a quality standard for deliverables?
Managing The Process
Anticipate problems and risks upfront.
Now, some professionals may see this as being negative, but I beg to differ. Having a frank and honest conversation about potential risks and issues that may arise during your engagement with your client is professional and prudent.
Outlining to the client the steps, process or methodology you will follow in delivering your services is critical. It sets the scene for understanding, discussion and agreement of both parties responsibilities.
If you have dealt with many clients in the past, you will find common issues/risks have arisen during your engagements. Documenting what these issues/risks were and how you handled the situations will allow you to discuss mitigation and contingency actions with your client.
To define the results the client expects upfront is very critical in helping you measure whether or not your engagement has been successful. Clearly defining what they consider to be satisfactory results will allow you to utilize these specifications to measure against your progress and the clients satisfaction with your services.
This is an often forgotten piece to any profession engagement and creates more angst and issues than is necessary.
Ensure that you and the client work out exactly what is going to be delivered and what is included in your services, as well as what is not included in your services. Working out a list before you start work and getting your clients agreement to the scope of services will assist in minimizing scope creep.
By not defining the scope you’re leaving yourself open to cost blow outs, schedule slippage as well as relationship problems with your client.
You will of course discuss key milestones and key deliverables as well as responsibilities, both yours and the clients, for ensuring a successful engagement. Ensure you discuss how you are going to communicate progress, as in what form, what frequency and to whom.
You may even go to the lengths of discussing issue resolution processes and triggers.
What’s your clients communication style? Every client is different – we are all individuals. It helps if you take note of your client’s personal style of communication, such as language used, jargon, speed of speech, whether they are visual types, emotionally driven or respond more to auditory stimulus.
Taking notes on how your client communicates will assist you in effectively managing their expectations throughout the engagement. Please, do ask questions and admit when you have made a mistake – it displays your human side.
Getting to know your client on a personal level (non business) is also great for building a strong relationship. Always be available to answer questions and where possible, call them before they call you.
Remember, it’s not just about this one “project”. Managing the relationship along the way whilst delivering agreed services and delighting the client with great results will open up many possibilities for you. Referrals, and ongoing work from your client are just some!