Gunner Technology is a service-based company.
In so much, clients are our lifeblood.
Whether it’s with the private sector or the public sector, we spend most of our time working for and with clients.
And like any relationship, there are highs and lows.
In our nearly 10 years in business, we’ve figured out some ways to have more highs than lows and increase the heights of the highs.
This first one should be obvious, but most of the time it isn’t.
When you enter into a new relationship, there is very little trust. Some times no trust at all.
That makes sense, but it’s tough to admit.
No matter how strong the referral or how thorough the vetting, a client just can’t fully trust someone they don’t know.
Especially because the client probably has been burned in the past.
There’s a tendency to get mad about this.
“We haven’t done anything to earn this distrust” is the mindset you’re tempted to have.
But that just creates bitterness and starts the relationship down a path that’s tough to recover from.
Instead, you need to realize that trust needs to be earned with every single client.
None of the trust you’ve built with other clients carries over to new clients.
So just accept the fact that you have to start from scratch and work on building that trust account.
How do you do that?
This one is hugely important in our industry where most of the work is done remotely.
If a client can’t see what’s going on, there is a tendency to worry.
You need to overcome that distance with communication.
For example, we have a weekly meeting with each of our clients to talk about what we did over the course of the previous week and discuss what we’re going to get done in the week ahead.
Not only that, part of that meeting includes a demonstration of what we’ve been working on, so the client gets to actually see the work that was completed.
How does this build trust?
Simple. You say what you’re going to do. You do it. You prove it.
Client’s never have to take our word that something is done because they see it almost immediately.
They never have to worry that we’ve fallen behind or are hiding anything.
Not to beat a dead horse, but communication is so critical, it bears repeating.
Never assume something is minor.
If something goes wrong, don’t cover it up, even if you think you can fix it before the client will notice.
Take an example: Let’s say you’re working on a website, and you deploy a defect that inadvertently deletes an entry in a database.
It’s not a big deal because the database is backed up and you can recover that deleted item quickly and easily.
Before you do, take a second to email the client. Let them know what happened and let them know how long it will take you to fix it.
Could you fix it in two minutes and the client never has to know you messed up?
Sure. But, that’s dishonest and should the client notice it before you fix it, that’s a huge hit to the trust account.
Mistakes happen. They’re forgivable – especially when explained and future mistakes are mitigated.
But trying to cover up mistakes have long-term detrimental effects.
We’ve never had a client complain that we’ve over-communicated with them.
As we said, there’s always going to be conflict in any relationship.
The trick is to not take it personally.
People have bad days. Clients are no different.
There’s frustration that might have nothing to do with you, but still, it gets taken out on you.
You have to let that go.
Don’t get frustrated. Keep doing your job.
At the same time, be careful to not take your frustration out on a client.
If you find yourself getting frustrated, cancel any meetings that aren’t 100% critical that day and step away from your email account.
The last thing you want is to say something in anger or frustration that is going to damage your relationship.
We’ve painted a pretty dim view of working with clients so far, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Working with clients, building relationships probably is the most rewarding part of our job.
That part can’t be overlooked.
We’ve had parties with clients, traveled to conventions with clients and even had Thanksgiving dinner with clients.
It can be easy to lose sight of all that when your nose is to the grindstone all day and you’re busting your hump to build the next big thing.
But it’s important to look up from time-to-time and admire what you’ve done together – whether that’s achieving goals or hitting a milestone.
Finally, it’s really important to not try to pigeonhole every client.
What we’ve laid out here are some good general principles that are good to apply in every relationship, but each client is unique with unique needs.
That means you’ll have to get to know your clients and adjust to their needs.
Just because something works really well with one client doesn’t mean it will work at all with another.
And you’ll have to adjust as the relationship changes.
While one strategy may work while the team is focused on building a new product, that strategy may not work while the team is focused on maintaining the project once it’s been launched.
So, be dependable, honest, communicative, calm and flexible – that will go a long way in making – and keeping – your clients happy.