Recently I have spent time with my posts
sharing stories of dismay with client relationships. My goal is certainly not
to be a downer or focus only on the negative side of things, but rather to
share real life stories in hopes that you can either avoid them yourselves or
at least see the warning signs. I fielded the same question from a few
followers and so I will take this opportunity to answer their question, but
then we’ll move on to brighter topics.
Sometimes it seems like we are the cause of our own client relationship
problems. How can we do a better job and avoid these situations?
Well, in my opinion, the short answer is
that we train our clients in a way that causes us grief down the road. That’s
right, we train our clients to be a problem.
We all want our clients to like us,
befriend us, order from us, enjoy our company when we schedule meetings or take
them to lunch. Why wouldn’t we? These are the people that ultimately keep us
employed and can make us look good in the eyes of our own employer. But, to
what extent might we go to make our clients happy?
All too often we fall into the trap of
putting our clients first, which in most cases is not a bad thing, but can be if
putting them first makes them a priority over another client or an internal
team member. For years and years there was a mantra in sales and customer
service…the customer is always right. But there is an inherent flaw in this
philosophy…if the customer is always right than you and your team are always
wrong. There can be no in between.
When we drop everything for a new
client, when we answer their calls at night and on weekends, when we reply to
their email within seconds of receiving it, we are training our clients that we
will always respond in such order. Immediately…without hesitation. There are
many behaviors, similar to this, that we “allow” our clients to exhibit when we
deal with them, without any pushback, and then ultimately we regret down the
Training the client is not a new
concept. We can train our clients to have great relationships. We can set
expectations that work for the client and for your company, on mutual terms,
and on a basis that provides a pleasant experience for both. But, the
cautionary tale is, take it slow and easy. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. And,
the best way to do this with a new client, pretend for a moment they have been
your client for years. How do interact with them? How do you communicate with
them? What is your standard turnaround time with them? Keep in mind, they are a
client still, so finish by asking yourself, why has the client kept you around?
Many of the firsthand examples I can
think of begin with how I set expectations with my clients or how I trained
them to work with me. You can do the same. Always be open to friendly, good,
and timely communication with your clients. But be careful not to over-commit
and you will be on the right path to training your client for success.