“The customer (client) is always right.” – I don’t know who invented this saying, but apparently, he or she wasn’t thinking straight.
This is just another popular phrase that caused almost every single one of us harm.
Back in the day when I used to do a lot of freelance copywriting, I’ve came into contact with all sorts of different clients who actually believed that they were right all the time.
I remember working for this one client a couple of years back who hired me to write some content for his company’s blog.
He got my information from our mutual friend, so he called me up, and we met for lunch. Everything was going fine, he really seemed interested in content marketing and investing more than his time and money into making it great.
Next to that, next to presenting his story and business as something that I should definitely be apart of, he offered me a really attractive salary, so I said yes to his proposal and we started doing business together.
In the first five days, everything was going great, but then he started to shove his nose into my business. He kept micromanaging my work and bugging me with irrational questions like: “Why don’t you write this sentence like this? Why is this piece longer than the previous one? Why do we need this call to action here, and not there?”
At first, I thought it was kind of weird that he did that because he had no prior experience in copywriting, content management or running a company blog.
Let’s get something clear right away. Usually, I don’t mind when my clients ask me questions about my work. Not at all. In fact, I tend to encourage them to do so, so I could get my hands on some serious feedback. But that wasn’t the case here.
This man hired me to do a job (based on my track record and expertise) that he doesn’t know how to do himself, and yet, he kept correcting me and sending me notes on how I should “improve” my work.
It goes without saying that most of his suggestions were quite off, and that I instantly knew that they were gonna backfire on us.
I tried to state my case on the matter, but he was determined to push his ideas through.
After arguing for a while, he pulled rank on me, so I caved in and changed my work to match his requests, so I don’t get fired. Naturally, the content bombed, and guess what? – He blamed me for it.
This is just one of the more bizarre moments I had with my clientele during my freelancing days. There were other scenario that weren’t that extreme, but they’ve also ended up as huge disappointments.
So, Why Do These Situations Keep Repeating Themselves?
Lack of trust.
I see trust as the cornerstone of any healthy, productive relationship, be it business oriented or not.
The problem with it is that in some industries, it’s a lot harder to establish it.
Do you think that the businessman who sent me those notes on how to “improve” my work did the same thing to his dentist? Of course not.
Why? – Well, because he’s in no position to question his work.
I know for a fact that he doesn’t know how to fix teeth, but he still seeks dental services. Just as he trusts his dentist to a solid job on his teeth, he should have also trusted me to write great copy for his company’s blog.
Contrary to popular thinking – Nobody is always right.
A client is usually an expert in functionality (business rules) of his business, and he obviously understand the requirements of their work very well. That gives the client the ability to articulate exactly what it needs, but only in terms of business rules.
However, your client is not an expert at every single thing that’s directly and indirectly related to his work. If he is, then he doesn’t have to seek assistance from all sorts of different service providers.
In my experience I have learned that business clients usually expect solutions which are similar to some other solution that they have already seen or used in another part of their business.
The solution you provide may be better, but it might also require them to shift their vision in a bit different direction, and that tends to create problems, especially if more money is involved.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes clients can come up with great suggestions. In some situations, you could actually benefit from some different input. But, in order that to work, you both need to be on the same page.
Dealing with clients whose opinions conflict with yours is not easy. If you want your relationship to work, you need to be very open and willing to listen and understand their opinions. They might have a point. Always remember to ask the right questions to fully understand from where their ideas are coming from, and if there’s a way on how you could communicate your actions so they could see some real benefits behind them.
The trick here is to never undermine your clients or employers position, but also, it’s of equal importance that you stand your ground and protect your work, because, at the end of the day, you’re gonna answer for it.
So, to underline everything that I wrote here, the whole issue is not necessarily about the client being “wrong”. I think the majority of friction between clients and companies/freelancers/service providers lies in lack of communication and undefined expectations.
However, clients can sometimes be over demanding. If you spend some time getting to know your clients, and what their expectations are, you can educate them and establish realistic expectations. By doing this, you’ll generally (90% of the time) resolve all your issues before they even surface.
If not, you can always choose to due business with someone else. Just like how your clients have the option of choosing with whom they want to work with, so do you.
When going into business with someone, never only focus on how much money you’re gonna make out of your arrangement. There are a lot of other elements that you should have in mind when agreeing to certain terms. But, that’s a whole new subject for some later posts.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. If so, please remember to share it with your friends and colleagues.
That’s it for now,
See you soon again,
Goran @ AltusHost B.V.