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Keeping Clients Happy…

. . . when you just don’t feel like it
You know those days when you don’t feel like balancing the deadlines, schedules and personalities that come with life? The days when you want nothing more than to put on your headphones, rock out to a NSFW Pandora station and ignore everything around you? Yeah, well, here’s the deal. When it comes to client management, this does not happen. Instead you spend your time, balancing all of the above, plus trying to keep everyone happy.
As project manager and primary client liaison for rustmedia, 90% of my job is balancing act. It’s doing what I can to keep each project moving while keeping everyone (i.e. my team and clients) as happy as possible. Lucky for me it’s a job that I (most days) really enjoy, thanks to a few tips I have learned over the years.
#1: You must understand that no two clients are the same. Each organization, and honestly person within the organization, has their own nuances and their own way of doing things. Some prefer phone calls to emails. Others would rather have quick bi-weekly meetings while others want long marathon review sessions. The quicker you learn those nuances and how to adapt to them, the more successful you–and ultimately the relationship with the client–will be.
#2: Take nothing personally. Everyone I encounter is more than just the job title or position they hold. They are real people who have bad days, get frustrated and make mistakes for no other reason than they are humans. So when a client gets upset or aggravated at something that happened, it’s up to me to let them vent, take into consideration what they are saying and figure out how to fix their problems if I can.
#3: You’re going to have lucky streaks — don’t take them for granted or think it’s because of anything you did. Now some of you will argue that there is no such thing as luck. Believe what you want, but I firmly believe that sometimes things are just on my side. Some times projects work out when they shouldn’t, sometimes the project gets done ahead of schedule, sometimes a crappy idea is just what the client wants to see and it’s what you delivered them. If those things happen, be thankful they did and focus on making sure that you don’t put yourself in the position of relying on luck in the future.
#4: You are not always right, but you’re not always wrong either. We’ve all heard the adage, “The client is always right” which is true in that they have the final say, but it doesn’t mean they are always right. There are going to be times when your team has the right solution and as an advocate for your client it is your responsibility to help them understand why your team thinks it is the right decision. Maybe they aren’t biting because they don’t understand or maybe they need to step back and see it from a different perspective. As the project manager, it’s my job to help them do those things and make sure they aren’t just rejecting something out of fear or the unknown. Then if after you’ve done your due diligence, if they still go another direction then so be it.
#5: Be an advocate. The client, your agency, yourself — everyone wants the same thing and that is success. Do your best everyday to help everyone find that success whether it’s facilitating discussion, pushing projects through, communicating good (and bad) news in a way that grows the relationship. Whatever it is remember that in client management you have the opportunity to help yourself, your agency and your client grow.
– Jamie