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1.27.2005

High Maintenance Clients

How much time is too much time to spend on client requests? We provide a set number of services, and each of those services has a documented process that is followed every time. If something goes wrong with the service, there is another documented process that details the steps that are to be followed to deal with the problem. Once a person understands how the processes work, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get the work done.

So if everything is documented and handled the same way, why do clients ever get the idea that they can make special requests that are to be carried out outside the process, and why do they get upset if those requests aren’t followed? There are a few reasons that come to mind immediately:

One – The client has worked with other companies in the past that have met all of their special requests, and they say that if you don’t meet their request then they’ll find someone who will. This is the heart of competition.

Two – It wasn’t made clear to the client at the beginning of the relationship what the processes are and where the boundaries are. There is almost always some tension between sales and operations, and when sales gets too interested in pleasing the customer at any price, life in operations can become a nightmare.

Three – The processes that are in place aren’t consistently followed. This is the same thing that happens when a child’s rules aren’t consistently enforced. If you tell him that he can’t play in the street, but an hour later say nothing when he ventures into the street an hour later, he will immediately recognize the inconsistency. Similarly, the client will not hesitate to ask you to do extraordinary things for them (whether or not they realize how extraordinary the request is) if they don’t know what you can or cannot realistically do. You don’t want to offend the client by constantly putting up walls when they ask for something, but clear communication about what the requests involve is essential.

Four – The client has a lot of weight to throw around. If you’re working for a million-dollar company, they’re used to getting what they want and getting it right away. They don’t care what your internal standards are. Childish? Yes, but that’s the way it happens.

You don’t want to offend the client by constantly putting up walls when they ask for something, but clear communication about what the requests involve is essential. What it comes down to is a basic cost versus quality question. How much money do you want to spend and how many people do you want to employ in order to be able to effectively meet every client request? There’s a tradeoff here, and I think that the successful company is the one that can occasionally bend a few rules and communicate effectively with the client about what can and cannot be done. The client has to know that you have their best interests in mind, and that if you say you can’t do something it’s because you don’t want to sacrifice the quality work you’re already doing for them.

1 Comments:

  • At 12:34 AM, Blogger George said…

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