Your clients are the reason that your project management is flowing.
You were doing the happy dance after landing that new client. Wooot woot.
But it’s been a couple of weeks and the emails, the texts, the voicemails, and questions at ungodly hours just keep pouring in. You’re starting to wonder if that additional $$$ is worth all the time they’re sucking out of you.
Juliana “I’m going batshit. How do I deal with all these ridiculous, requests that leave me frustrated and annoyed?”
BUT, have you ever thought your time isn’t being sucked dry by your engagement, but actually by your onboarding?
Breaking out of the “request” trap: a quick story…
Armando is a client of mine who does digital marketing. He came to me because he felt like he was at capacity.
He had no weekends, no time for his partner and started to see the signs of an intsy bit of muffin top because the treadmill was collecting dust.
Every day he crossed his fingers that a client didn’t call him because he just didn’t have the time, energy or even the patience to even deal with them. His saying was, “If they are not calling it means everything is great.” They were constantly asking him to make changes and do reporting he was never getting paid for. (Sound familiar?)
So we took a look at his client engagements to assess what was affecting his ability to produce results.
And the discoveries were surprising … well, for him at least.
We realized that many of his client issues had very little to do with capacity and almost everything to do with onboarding — not setting up boundaries and expectations, or even knowing what the clients’ digital marketing starting point was in the first place.
I told Armando…
“Your clients are trying to board a plane to an amazing destination, but if you want to take on a great volume of clients, you are going to have to go TSA on their ass and make sure they know the rules before boarding”.
We all hate the TSA strip search, the 100ml bottle restrictions, no shoes, no sweater, taking out your laptop — we hate it, BUT we comply anyway. There’s a process — if you travel you are made aware and get conditioned to it. There is simply no wiggle room.
The same needs to happen with your service business. Then plenty of people can happily board for your destination.
So we set up his onboarding process, created an actionable workflow in his project manager, saved 20 hours a month, and were then able to increase his revenue by 45% in the next three months.
The best part was that he had now his whole process documented and hired a client success manager to take care of onboarding and client service. Whhhhhaaat!? Yeah, how relieving it is to read as a business owner.
Love to get the same results?
Bonus Tip: Establishing ground rules is going to create the biggest 80/20 impact for your onboarding. Think about:
- When do you want them to reach you?
- What’s the rule for scheduling — i.e. 48 hours, 24? (And is there a consequence to this?)
- How many points of contact will there be for you? Which team members are you engaging with?
- If you have a tangible deliverable: How many edits or iterations are you allowing in the scope of work before there is a change order?
Disclaimer: Don’t tell your bad clients about how they are hijacking your session or project!
Your clients are the bloodline of your business. But, more often than you want to, they get into your nerves. They demand stuff that is out of the contract, unreasonable, or simply out of this world!
Thankfully, you don’t have to lose your sanity to keep your difficult clients. You don’t have to do all of their requests either. In the end, the client will thank you for not giving-in into their crazy requests. Just look at this design disaster that happened to a Japanese noodle company when the designer said yes to all of the client’s demands.
This was the designer’s first draft.
But apparently, the client pretends to be an expert in design so more demands are made.
Until the demands went out of control…
Presenting, the final product- this is how your project will turn out if you say yes to the client all the time even if they’re completely cracked.
You can get through these chaotic client requests and unrealistic expectations with win-win solutions through effective project management. Here are some tips to keep you sane while addressing your beloved but not so likable difficult clients.
1. Technically set yourself up
Make sure your ship is in tip-top shape before the storm hits! Do I hear an aye aye captain? You’re setting yourself up for a disaster if your company is already in chaos before more craziness comes in.
If you have all your systems in place, it’ll be easier to regain composure no matter how crazy the demand of your client will be. You have two things to set up; the system and the person.
Your system is like a conveyor belt, every step ensures that a perfect product will come out. The person you assign will serve as the account manager. Remember, keeping your clients happy is important so choose someone who can be calm (or pretend to be) even during surprise requests from bad clients. She or he has to be credible because every request will be funneled to him or her.
2. Categorize the request
You have to clarify if the request makes sense. Because, sometimes, we don’t know what kind of sorcery comes into clients’ minds that they make insane wishes. Just look at the advertisement for the cup noodle above! Yes it take a bit of extra effort but it’s worth it in the long run
Next, if you have decided that the request makes sense, ensure that it is part of your scope. This is one of the reasons why project managers lose profit. They end up doing stuff that they aren’t supposed to be doing in the first place!
If the request is not in your contract, you have to decide if you want to do it just because you want to impress your client. If not, talk to your client to modify the scope and adjust the budget accordingly.
3. Watch your timeline
Be realistic about your team’s capacity. Don’t forget that you only have twenty-four hours, and those hours are not made for work alone. You, your teammates, and your employees are not superheroes.
Be outright in telling your client if tight deadlines are unrealistic. Most deadlines are flexible, don’t be afraid to negotiate.
You’re not a time wizard, you know. Sure your client might want that rush job or extended labor they don’t even have to pay for but we all get how frustrating it can be when clients expect us to complete an impossible amount of quality work in the space of a day, or even mere hours.
4. Speak straightforwardly
No need for sugar coating here honey. You’ve already gained your client, so stop the sweet talk. What you need is to be able to communicate honestly and effectively so that you can help your client reach their goals.
Some of the client’s request may not be helping them to reach their goals. Whatever their reason is for making outlandish wishes, it is your job to make them see the bigger picture. Insist on what you know. They hired you for your expertise because you know better. So hold your ground, they’ll thank you for it in the end.
Clients are not always right. If they are, they wouldn’t need your help! Be kind but firm when a bad client tries to mess up with your project management workflow. Your client is not trying to make you crazy. He or she may just be misguided or overwhelmed. You both want the same thing, a successful project, so work together to make it happen. Another reason to not fulfill all client demands that are not in the project scope is that your other prospective clients may expect the similar special treatment you’re giving to the demanding client.
The next time a client makes an out of this world request, remember the following:
- Technically set yourself up
- Categorize the request
- Watch your timeline
- Speak straightforwardly
Now most of you will take action, BUT…
…for those of you who’d love some ideas that are more specific to your business, I’m super happy to hop on a quick call to chat about what you need to have a headache free client relationship. I take the first three inquiries every week, so click here to schedule yours now!