What to do When You Care More Than Your Client
All of my work experience is in the marketing space, formerly working with Fortune 500 companies and currently, with more entrepreneurial companies. My B2B clients tell me that there are times when they feel that they care more about their customer's success than their customer does. I'll confess that I've felt the same from time to time.
In my past life when award events or promotional campaigns were involved and there were deadlines to meet, the client did usually care about the delivery deadline...just not always about the
Why it Happens
I totally get it. Our clients are busy; we provide services that support their business, but is not their
My current clients are mostly entrepreneurs and an occupational hazard for this group is to be attracted to very shiny things. The last book they read, the last expert they spoke to or the last presentation they attended is likely to spur a hundred new ideas and send them off into different directions.
What to do?
- Accept responsibility for the deadline, with qualifiers. Once you understand your client's deadline, make sure you are clear about what you need from them in order to meet it - in writing - then remind them! Remind them again as your decision deadline is approaching; don't assume that they remember what you need and when you need it. If all else fails, ask permission to make an "executive decision" in order to meet their deadline.
- Simplify the process. If there is a fill-in-the-blanks template you can provide, if there is a short-cut you can offer, do it. Think about what would take the hassle out of working with you from their end: that's your new process.
- Explain the reason for the process...diplomatically. When the client has hired you for your expertise, it's probably because they don't have that skill set within their employee base. In that case, they may not know what they don't know: and they're probably not familiar with why the process is important. When they resist following it, gently explain the consequences of taking short cuts, then do the best you can with the information they've provided. (If the client disagrees with the concept and the process in the first place, it might be time to disengage from that client...).
- Don't take it personally. Chances are good that the client doesn't even realize that they're not cooperating. They're busy, they've got personal or other business issues on their mind, they're stuck in old habits, they weren't really listening in your meeting (!) - there are a million reasons why they appear to care less than you do about their success. (It's probably not real...just your perception.)
Finally, of course, be conscientious about your responsibilities and your process, but resist caring more about your client's business than they do. You'll drive yourself crazy, probably drive your client crazy and will not gain anything in the long run.