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Managing Clients


Clients are both a necessary and an evil. Whilst on the whole, most are great people, there are a few who fit into other categories. And, that’s ok! After all, we are there to do a job (we don’t have to be the best man or bridesmaid at their wedding), and as such, our level of professionalism towards the client must always be at its highest. What we say behind closed doors in our office however, well, I’ll let you leave that to the imagination.

Managing clients is a tough tightrope to walk. On one end of the spectrum, you can have a very free-and-easy client-supplier relationship, bordering towards friendship, in which the lines of professionalism can become blurred. This, although a positive client-supplier experience, can lead to problems, as deadlines shift when a favour is needed, a little extra work is done here or there and not adequately billed, or one does not know how to say ‘no’ to a request which is outside of the agreed scope. It also creates issues of expectation – the supplier will always be there, 24/7 for the clients, and conversely, as the client likes us, our role is safe. 

Countering this is the client from … lets just say, a difficult client. What makes a difficult client varies – it could simply be a language or communication issue, it could be personal (you just don’t gel, or you genuinely dislike each other), it could be a lack of understanding of respective roles and how they work in symbiosis, or it could be an indecisive or inept client who has bitten off far more than they can chew. Regardless, if your client is a difficult person, it is best to identify the cause of the friction as early as possible and address it. 

If its communication or language, find ways around the issue, and restructure how you communicate to suit that person. After all, we adjust our communication style for nearly everyone we meet anyway; this may just be a few more adjustments. If its personal, look at reassigning people on your team, or putting someone else as the face to the client. Often a change in personality or representative helps a lot, even though the person doing the work or pulling the strings has not really changed. If its ineptitude, and sadly, this happens far too often; educate your client. Help them to understand what you do, how it is done, and how the outcomes help them. Give them pointers to make them feel more empowered, even if they still don’t have a clue what’s going on. Occasionally, take one for the team, and let the clients superiors think they came up with an idea or a strategy, or at least were active participants in it.

But, there are other types of clients too. Clients who are unresponsive. Again, you need to look deeper at why. Is it their workload? Is it their prioritisation? Is it their understanding? Or are other factors at play?

Our job is to uncover these issues, and to work on smoothening the client-supplier relationship. At the end of the day, business is business, and if communication, expectations, and relationships are maintained on a professional level, the client-supplier dynamic should be relatively smooth sailing.

Taking this broad discussion a step further, we can all learn to understand our clients better. This will help build a better relationship between everyone. Clients on the whole are only interested in progress and timely outcomes. They are not so concerned with how or where you work, but that the tasks are done, on time, and to the standard benchmarked. 

In most cases when they ‘freak out’ about something, it is more likely to be about them, than it is you. Clients get frustrated for many reasons, and more often than not you are the straw the breaks the camels back, not the core of the problem. Focus on helping them feel heard, helping them to calm down, and figuring out how you can resolve things. When a client reaches out, this is the chance to be the knight in shining armour. 

Don’t let communication with clients go dark. There are times when the client may drop the ball, or go silent. Keep up the communication from your end. Create an “if we don’t hear from you plan” so that you can continue your work, even if the client is stretched beyond their capacity. Look into other channels of communication to help the client stay on top of things. Pick up that phone. And, if there is a more sinister reason behind their sudden silence, address that ASAP so that things can proceed. 

Managing clients and their expectations is really about open, direct, and regular communication. Get everyone on the same page from the beginning, and streamline the process. Everyone involved will appreciate the clarity. 

Each strategy is going to be different depending on the client, their level of seniority, experience, and involvement with the supplier. Regardless, keeping it professional at all times is the most important.

Personally, I have had clients on both ends of the spectrum. Some I have stayed friends with; others I have not. Inept clients are frustrating, but by maintaining very detailed communication records in black and white, you bases are always covered. By looping others into the experience, it can help shape behavior. And if all else fails, and you are in the position to do so, just agree to disagree, and acknowledge that the chemistry is not great. Sometimes the simple act of acknowledging the tension cuts through it like a knife, and the issue dissipates. 
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Orchan is proud to be listed with DesignRush as one of their Top Integrated Marketing Agencies of 2019: https://www.designrush.com/agency/integrated-marketing-agency

We work hard to deliver great campaigns, training, and client experience to those who entrust us with their brand reputation. 

Image Source: 
(1) cxmmarketinggroup.com


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