CLIENT (internal dialogue): OMG they think I’m crazy. I just want it how I want it. Aaaaand it WILL most likely happen again! Oooops.
YOU (internal dialogue): You are insane. I’m going nuts. I might kill you — but I won’t … because I need to pay overhead.
Take a mind reading microscope to the typical scenario of dealing with a tough client, and it looks something like the above exchange.
If you’ve been in business for quite some time now, chances are you’ve met at least one such wacky client.
They can be are demanding.
They can be are usually unclear with their requirements.
Or, they can be terrible for no reason.
You know the drill, right?
But when a client gives you a hard time, and there’s no silver lining whatsoever, what can you do to protect your sanity while getting the job done?
You’ll want to identify the cracks in your client process.
By improving your client onboarding process and tightening up the scope of your projects.
Identify Cracks in the Client Process
Here are five ways you can find the cracks in your client process and improve your client onboarding and scope creation.
1. You’re behind schedule because of the client.
You have a lovely client. It’s a pleasure to deal with them. The only problem is the project delays. In fact, there are a lot of them. Why? Well, because of the client.
Trust me, it happens so much we call it “client dragging a$$ syndrome.”
Many of my customers ask, “Juliana, what can I do if I fall behind schedule thanks to client-induced delays?”
I suggest two solutions in this scenario:
- Add a buffer to each project’s deadline
- Charge a margin fee for any project extensions past the agreed-upon deadline
2. Scope of work? What’s that?
You may have mapped out an SOW that’s a thing of beauty.
But what if your client doesn’t understand it?
Or, even worse, doesn’t follow it on purpose — thanks to the whole “customer-is-the-king” song playing in their head all the time.
Instead of giving in to their “special” requests as “extras” and working beyond the scope for free, be upfront. Set clear boundaries, and avoid that grumble later on.
3. It’s urgent! It always is!
Well, here comes the most dreaded of them all — the one who is always running on tight timelines and wants quick results. Make sure your onboarding process is competent enough to filter out leads that want you to work on ridiculously short time frames.
It’s no good.
Being on a client’s beck and call constantly never is.
4. Hey client, “You’ve got an email!”
There are clients who are too occupied to check their emails and messages.
And there are clients who just don’t bother to revert.
Either way, it’s annoying to work with a bad communicator.
Whether you need feedback or sign off, reduce the frequency of contact to weekly check-ins, and use online tools like Slack and Asana, if possible.
5. Too many junior cooks in the kitchen.
Too many people working on a project?
Chaos and confusion abound!
Goalposts change, quality decreases, and more time is spent organizing and sorting things out than on actual work.
While you can’t remove stakeholders from a project, crowdsourcing can allow them to be heard.
Having a single point of contact for collecting and disseminating information can also prevent your project from becoming a fine kettle of fish.
Also, try automating the process.
Assigning a single-point-of-contact and setting up automations can help everyone involved in the project. It’s a major step toward better collaboration. You can trust me on this (and on all of the other points too, btw).
That’s the problem with a client process.
You commit too much, you look needy.
Not enough, you seem too laid back.
Clients commit too much, they’re lovely.
Not enough, they’re busy.
Why, oh why, this discrimination?
Set clear expectations before you sign a contract.
If, still, you happen to encounter a difficult-to-please customer, try one of the methods listed-above before giving up on them.
Find, Fill and bulletproof the cracks in your process:
- Set clear boundaries upfront about scope, and add buffers to the project deadlines
- Include margin fees for Client-Dragging-A$$ syndrome
- Filter out leads who want to work on crazy timelines
- Assign a single-point-of-contact
- Use automations
It may not be easy. But it’s worth it.