What makes for a great client relationship? Well of course it’s the usual: ensure that you deliver on everything you promised, do it on time, and do it on budget; this just makes sense. But when was the last time that a project actually tracked to the initial plan with no changes all the way through?
The reality is no project ever goes perfectly. There are many factors that can impact a project, many of which are unforeseen and can throw a wrench into the entire project in a flash. A good client / vendor partnership can be forged during these times, but only if the right approach is taken.
The different approaches
Over the years, I have seen many different approaches to dealing with issues when everything is coming off the rails:
- I have seen the company put undue pressure on the client – thus making it their problem regardless of whether they willingly accept the burden
- Or, put the pressure on the internal teams to “work harder / weekends and evenings” to recover some semblance of the original plan
- Or, in many cases, continue to let everything spin out of control to the point where there is no recovery and the whole thing crashes and burns
Now, don’t get me wrong – there are times when the second option is the best course and the only answer is to put your head down and get it done. But this isn’t always the case, especially when the project issues are external such as MRL reviews or other variables.
The transparent approach
It is very easy to handle these issues in a way that leaves a bad taste in the client’s mouth. So why do we let this happen? We mostly do this out of fear – fear that the client will not understand.
What we tend to forget is that our clients are people too. They have feelings, they understand the world is an imperfect place and that compromises sometimes need to be made. But, in order for the client to feel empowered, you need to be honest, transparent, and treat them like a true partner.
If you work in an agency, I know what you’re thinking – the clients may hear something they don’t like… right? Maybe – however being honest and transparent is critical to building solid relationships.
Now – does that mean dumping all your issues on them in the spirit of “transparency”? No. What this means is coming to the table with all the information proactively, frequently with solutions. Providing options on how to resolve the issues and the steps to resolution will be the thread that helps to sew the fabric back together.
Many times this feels counter intuitive, I know. But the reality is a constant stream of transparent communication will help to forge a deeper partnership over the long term.