If the client/service provider relationship is a two-way street, why is it that many business owners feel veritably “beaten up” by certain clients? Whether it’s late payments, constant changes to project requirements or even in some extreme cases, persistent verbal abuse, every business has or has had clients that “put them through their paces.” I contend that it doesn’t have to be that way.
The best business outcomes are derived from a relationship of mutual respect and consideration. Whenever anyone in the relationship feels mistreated, the deliverables are undermined.
But some clients seem hell-bent on “getting their way” regardless of the circumstances and some business owners will bend over backward to satisfy their demands. Once again, I don’t believe that this is a way to maintain a healthy business relationship.
Here are some suggestions on how you can make certain to keep your clients in check and help ensure a mutually rewarding relationship:
Establish the Boundaries and Parameters for the Relationship
One of the most important things to do at the start of any new business relationship is to establish the “parameters for engagement.” These parameters are very personal and will vary from company to company depending upon the culture of the company as well as the services and/or products being provided.
It is always beneficial to include the terms of business, including full scope of work, staff performing the work from both the client and vendor sides, payments, expectations when there are changes to their project/s, communication guidelines (i.e. do clients have access to their key contacts, 24/7?), and all other significant “touchpoints” and project management specifications that will make the execution of the work more successful and stress free for all.
Maintain Open Lines of Communication
Honesty, Integrity, Respect and Transparency must be part of the two-sided communication. Establishing the parameters is a positive first step, however, maintaining open lines of communication throughout the business relationship is critical for an ongoing positive work experience for all. Clients and their staff must feel comfortable voicing concerns and disappointment. Conversely, business owners must also be comfortable providing honest feedback and an assessment of the manner in which the relationship is developing. This open communication will serve to eliminate or solve problems before they grow in magnitude and may potentially undermine the success of the work for both the client and the business owner. Being transparent is the only way!
Make Certain That Your Client Care is Exceptional
Sometimes client meltdowns are a direct result of some internal disconnects and business owners will do well to examine their own “house” before rushing to judgment about a client being out of control. Meet with the team assigned to the specific client to gain a full understanding of the dynamics of the relationship and probe for their honest assessment of the situation. Keeping a client “in check” requires that the employees are held to task as well and once certain missteps are rectified, the relationship can improve.
Remember that you cannot have a business if you don’t have clients. The acquisition of new clients is important for growth however equally as important is the retention and growth of existing clients. This means that there must be a “mutually rewarding” business relationship for all.