Do This To Ensure Better Customer Engagements
There’s a lot of talk about “Bad Customers” and how important — and satisfying — it is to “fire” them so they stop wasting your time. The idea is that if you get rid of them, you’ll be better able to focus on your “Good Customers” who are presumably worth more of your time and energy.
But stopping a project in progress and terminating a client relationship is a waste of time, resources and energy and causes hard feelings on both sides. It’s much better to do whatever you can to head off problems before they arise — by taking bold action at the very beginning of every client engagement.
Make a list of some of the things that characterize your really “Good Customers” — your own Ideal Customer Checklist — and take a few steps to get things going in the right direction with every customer, every time:
Is a good fit for the kind of work we do.
- Take time for reciprocal sharing of goals, values, ways of working together.
- Describe other similar arrangements that have worked out well and others that have not and the reasons for both.
Doesn’t delay or disrupt the project with requests for “late changes.”
- Make sure the objectives and specs of the project are clear up front.
- Recognize the inevitability of subsequent changes along the way, describe the kinds of events and contingencies that would give rise to them and make provisions for how to handle right in the Scope of Work document.
Has reasonable expectations of what we can deliver.
- Make sure the customer knows your capabilities and resources you already have on board and others you can bring on to augment for the project.
- Lay out time estimates for various kinds of work, the assumptions behind them and the types of events that can affect them.
Pays bills on time.
- Specify expectations for payment: How much upfront, at certain milestones and at final completion.
- Describe what the customer will see, hear and experience to verify that each payment-triggering event has occurred.
Steps up to cooperate to get the job done.
- Agree on mutual expectations for handling of requests for information.
- Set up a formal process for review, consultation and sign-offs on interim deliverables.
Is likely to be satisfied with our work product.
- Describe clearly what a successful outcome will look like.
- Establish a process for a “punch-list” for fixes after delivery.
If you start with the idea that there’s a lot within your control as to who’s going to be a “Good Customer” and take the initiative in the front end, you’ll increase the likelihood that your engagements will be successful and productive.