When Projects Go Bad 4: Communication
Your client isn’t quite, happy, you’re struggling to meet their needs, maybe your behind schedule, maybe you’re having a bad day. It’s often tough to know how to respond to a client.
When pressure is building up, your client is angry, it can be very tempting just to hide away from the world but this is the absolute worst thing you can do. Having a clear line of communication is important. Where possible you should be the one going to them and not the other way around.
We’re all human and we’ve all had to let someone down. Client’s respect honesty and if you fess up, put your hand up and take responsibility then they will usually be forgiving. The absolutely worst thing to do is to use a spurious excuse as to why you’re late, or lie. If you get caught out then that’s it for your relationship.
Sometimes all a client needs is to have a bit of a shout, get things off their chest and things will be better. When communicating it can be easy to fall into a trap of completely placating a client. After all, you want people to be happy with your service. You can only apologies so much, and after that it’s important that you and the client are on the right track to solving the problem. The issue comes where a client might be over-exaggerating their unhappiness in order to try and reduce the price or sneak in extra work. This does unfortunately happen which is why it’s key to be nice but firm.
You may already know that your relationship is dead. You might simply never want to work with this client again and where shouting and bad tempers are involved it can be all so tempting to sink down to their level, join in and leave. Not only is this unprofessional but you will regret it in the long run. When you look back at projects that have gone wrong, you want to say objectively and honestly that you’ve done everything in your power to help that client. Grit your teeth and try and get through it.
If talking in person or on the phone gets you no where one tactic to get through a project is simply to revert to formal emails and block their number. This should only be considered in extreme cases but enables you to have a paper trail and be professional. Don’t get sucked into unnecessary email tennis or slide remarks though.