Managing Client Relationships – The Client’s Side
As a web design firm, the success of your business is not only dependent on the quality of the people you hire, but also dependent on the relationships you’re able to manage with your clients. You want to make sure that you’re building a relationship of trust on the part of your client, and reliability on the part of your business. Those two elements boil down to a few simple things – asking the right questions, managing expectations, clear communication, and good follow-through. Of course, in the end, your main goal should be to make sure you have a satisfied client, because without that, your business won’t be getting many future clients.
What does everybody want, and is that feasible?
The first thing you need to do with your client is figure out what they’re really looking for, and be an “active listener.” Active listening means that you acknowledge what your client is saying, and are able to read between the lines. It’s always ok to follow-up a point the client has made with, “What I’m hearing is….” and then lay out what you understand the client’s main points to be. This will offer both you and your client the chance to make sure you’re on the same page, and clarify any fuzzy points. Sometimes a client will come in and just say, “I want a website.” That’s not very descriptive. You’ll have to have the patience to sit with them, and ask the right questions, to find out what kind of website they’re actually looking for, what additional requirements their vision might necessitate in order to become a reality, and what your company will actually be able to deliver.
A great way to start out a conversation, instead of with the type of service the client is looking for (because sometimes they have an idea of what they want, but they really need something else), is to ask what the client wants you to help him or her achieve? Is it readership for their blog? Is it reservations for their fitness classes?
Is it online purchases? Asking these kinds of questions will help you help your client identify their own needs. Once you have the “what” of their needs, then you can focus on the “how” of their needs. How do they want to increase sales/revenues/awareness/reservations? Do they want to have people switch to another medium (such as making a phone call when presented with a number on a website for more information) or do they want their own customers to complete their transaction there online? Get an idea of what the client is looking for, and how they want those transactions to happen, and then you’ll have a better idea of how to meet those needs and expectations. Which leads to the last two elements you’ll need to consider…
Costs and needs
Once you have a better idea of what your client’s actual needs are, it’s a good time to talk about costs. Have your billable hours set beforehand, as well as your costs for any additional support needs. Get an idea of what your client’s budget is first, because then you’ll be able to start negotiating, but also be able to start managing expectations. For example, if your client wants a website build, but will also need your company to host it, then that’s something the client should be aware of from the start. Or, if your client will need APIs built, or an FTP server set up and managed for email deployment, that’s also something that you’ll need to price out with them from the start.
Managing relationships with your clients boils down to everyone having an understanding of what each other needs, wants, and is able to do. Once that’s established, delivering what the client paid for, and making sure your company still makes money, gets a whole lot simpler.