Managing the Client Relationship
There are many factors that can lead to more contracts and better referrals. One of those is focusing on making sure the relationship between you and your client is as strong as possible. At times, problems will arise during your contract and how you react to these problems can determine your ability to achieve future work.
To understand the project you have to ask the right questions. In the beginning, ensure that you and your client know what the project entails. Some clients are not the best communicators, and one of the best ways to make up for that is to repeat what you heard and ask to confirm the details. This will help you understand the goals of the project, and help the client understand what he or she should be expecting from you.
From the start of the relationship with your client, make sure to agree on the strategy, timing, and goals of the project you will be working on. As long as the both of you understand what is expected then there will be less of a surprise at the end. Sometimes clients start to add more features to a project outside of the planned objectives, leading to scope creep. This can be good or bad depending on how you handle it. It may mean an extended contract, but try to keep your project scope within reason.
Address problems early and often
Not everyone likes surprises, especially in a business setting. When problems do arise, do not be afraid to let your client know. Problems are common enough in the business world, so when they do happen it is best to take them head on rather than pretend that they do not exist. By being transparent you can create an approachable and open relationship with your client. Budgeting is another issue that can and will come up during a project. If you are approaching the budget given to you, keep your client updated. Do not assume the client will pay if you exceed the budget without talking to them. Often times you may be stuck with those overages. The sign of a good relationship is its ability to react to changes and keep moving forward.
Positive and negative things may happen over the course of a project’s life. Team members may leave or managers may change, but it is your responsibility to react to those changes appropriately. If any major changes happen with your client, do not be afraid to ask questions pertaining to your continued contract. If all else fails, fall back on the project scope that you agreed upon in the beginning.
In the end, communication is crucial in maintaining a high-quality relationship with your client. If you fail to keep an open line, chances are you and your client will both be disappointed. If you address issues early and take the time to communicate openly, you will keep client expectations in check and be able to grow your business relationship over time.
Do you have an interesting story about a client? Let us know in the comments.