Client Engagement Strategies Part 1 Taming the Dragon

Client Engagement Strategies Part 1 Taming the Dragon

Navigating the Difficult Client

Everyone, no matter what industry they are in, has had a difficult client. These types can range from never satisfied to the “know it all”, to the “silent but deadly” type. There are also those clients I categorize as “hope-less”, the ones that will resist even impeccable service and finely tuned management. They simply refuse to see anything you do as positive and despite your best attempts you will never win them over.

The truth is, in my business of managing other people’s success online, 100% customer satisfaction can be difficult to obtain, regardless of how much impact you have on their bottom line.  “Chasing the dragon” accurately describes the client /provider scenario that morphs over time. The more successful you make them the more success they want. Wanting more success isn’t such a bad thing, nor is it unreasonable necessarily. The problem occurs when the bar gets so high you inevitably disappoint them. What’s worse, is the lack of credit or recognition you receive for the successes up to that point. In the client’s eyes, you failed to meet their current demand, therefore, well…you suck overall!

“Success” in its very basic meaning is a relative term, ie; everyone defines it differently as it applies to them and as I’ve just mentioned, is often a variable within a single project. Herein lies the dragon that you must tame.

Agreements, Proposals and Scope of Work (The Who, What, How, and Where?)

Depending on the size of the project you may already have a legal document containing the usual standard language that serves a valid purpose by stating you will provide a service for the customer for x amount of days and he will pay you x amount of money for that service. It continues to also state that shall either party default on that agreement then a lawsuit could and may occur. You may even have some language in there about “no guarantees” to protect yourself even further. While these agreements serve a purpose, there is too much wiggle room to prevent the dragon from getting lose and wreaking havoc on your project. Why? Because these agreements are too broad. They are meant to deter against default of payment and have very little to do with the actual details of the project.

How to Tame the Dragon Starts with a Discussion

Avoiding inevitable failure in the clients eyes starts with getting on the same page with him/her. In doing so you give yourself the opportunity to decide what “success” really is as it relates to your project. The more specific you are, the better. The process starts with a discussion seeking to define “what” “how long” and “how many.” You may even throw cost into this if you’d prefer especially if this becomes the actual and only agreement between you and your client. Note: This discussion could also uncover some unrealistic expectations that your customer has. If you are unsuccessful at navigating them back into the waters of reality, this is your opportunity to walk away unharmed. Don’t hesitate to take it, if you feel it’s necessary.

Upon verbal agreement of how long and how many, you are then ready to complete quite possibly the most important document that will exist between you and your client. It’s the one that keeps the dragon at bay and you from being charred.

Read Part 2 –  Defining and Creating the Project Scope


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