It's not a secret to anyone that dealing with clients could become extremely difficult and, if you’re in the front row, you know what I’m talking about. The bad news is that you will probably face this situation at some point in your career. That’s why it’s important to add some extra time to your week and take control of your hectic schedule.
The key to success in any business is building a good-lasting relationship with your clients. Practising effective client management skills will certainly improve your clients’ experiences (and yours too), but what exactly is client management? Basically, it’s the way you manage the working relationship with a client to ensure the highest quality of service and therefore, satisfaction. Most of the time, it includes discovering what the client needs from you and measuring how well you deliver on those needs.
But what happens when managing clients takes up a lot more of your time and energy than it should? Here are 8 simple and effective client management skills that might help you:
One of the most important ways to manage clients or stakeholders is to actively listen to their concerns. Give them your full attention, show empathy, and ask questions to better understand their needs. By demonstrating that you are willing to listen and care about their concerns, you can build trust and create a more positive relationship.
In addition to listening, seek to understand your client's perspective first. Where is their feedback coming from? Acknowledging and validating their concerns might help you understand the deeper problem and therefore fix it.
In situations where people you work with become confrontational, it's important to remain calm and composed. Avoid getting defensive or reacting emotionally. Instead, take a deep breath and respond respectfully. Most people want to feel listened to and understood and that is why providing that opportunity by allowing your client to vent without interruption takes an important place here. As a UX designer myself, I know that it may be difficult to hear opinions you disagree with or that you know are not the best suitable solution but it's a necessary first step, because by remaining calm, you can de-escalate the situation and prevent it from escalating further.
One mistake I used to make a lot in my first year as a consultant was not setting clear and honest expectations. Sometimes we feel that we can do everything in a short amount of time. When we fail to set realistic timelines it can lead to conflicts and tense situations.
To avoid these misunderstandings or conflicts, set clear expectations from the beginning of the client relationship. This includes outlining the services you will provide, the timeline for completion, and the expected outcomes. By setting clear expectations, you can manage the client's expectations and prevent any confusion or disappointment down the line.
Regular communication is key to building a strong relationship with your clients, by keeping them updated on progress, and being transparent about any challenges or delays you can ensure that they are satisfied with your work and that any issues are addressed in a timely manner. Remember, it’s important to make following up part of a routine rather than something that's only done when trying to close a client. For example, by following up on a regular basis you can notice on time if they have felt that their needs were not being met, but they did not feel comfortable telling you directly.
Try to find common ground with these people, you can start by identifying shared interests or goals and focus on these areas to build a more positive relationship. This will help you to create a more productive working environment and lead to better outcomes and results within the project you are working on. Finding these “grounds” might seem obvious, but is important for several reasons:
Builds trust: It shows that you understand their perspective and are willing to work with them. This can help build trust in the relationship and create a more positive working environment.
Enhances communication: This can help improve communication between both parties. It can lead to a better understanding of each other's needs and goals, and ultimately result in a more successful outcome.
Helps identify solutions: You may be able to identify new solutions or approaches to problems that you had not previously considered. This can lead to better outcomes and a more productive relationship.
Reduces conflict: When clients feel heard and understood, they are less likely to become confrontational or aggressive. Finding common ground can help reduce conflict and prevent the situation from escalating.
Builds rapport: This can create a more positive relationship and therefore lead to better long-term outcomes and future opportunities to work together.
When dealing with complicated stakeholders, it's important to provide them with options, not too many though, because then you’ll end up delaying your deadlines/sprints and also by giving clients choices, they feel more in control and engaged in the process. When people feel involved in decision-making, they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.
To prevent burdensome people from overstepping boundaries, it's important to establish clear boundaries from the beginning. Let them know what is and isn't acceptable behaviour, and enforce consequences if necessary. For example, if the client is requesting work outside of the agreed-upon scope, you can explain that this work is not included in the original agreement and that additional fees may be required. And if the client is consistently not following the boundaries, it may be necessary to renegotiate the terms of the contract. This could include adjusting the scope of work, timeline, or budget to better align with the client's expectations.
At your initial meeting with a client, be sure to ask what mode of communication works best for them (e.g. talking only by email, or perhaps an internal chat like teams work best for them, etc.) and the best time to make contact. This will help set expectations and create a more professional working environment.
Finally, know when to say no and don’t be afraid of saying it. If a stakeholder consistently causes stress or negatively impacts your business, it may be time to part ways. While it can be difficult to turn away business or a specific project, it's important to prioritise your own well-being and the health of your team. Some benefits of knowing how to say no are:
Protecting your time and resources: Some people may make unreasonable demands or requests that can be time-consuming or expensive. Saying "no" in a polite and professional manner can help protect your time and resources, and ensure that you can focus on delivering high-quality work for your other clients.
Avoiding burnout: Continuously saying "yes" to unreasonable or unrealistic requests can lead to burnout, stress, and ultimately compromise the quality of your work.
Maintaining a professional reputation: Saying "no" in a professional and respectful manner can actually enhance your reputation in your company regardless of your role. It shows that you are a skilled professional who is confident in their abilities and can be trusted to deliver high-quality work.
I hope after reading this you might find some solutions. Remember that ,anaging, advising and guiding people can be challenging and even though it might seem easy, it is not, but by using the strategies outlined in this article, you can effectively manage these situations and build better relationships while also getting some mental peace.
Remember to stay calm, actively listen, empathise with their perspective, set clear boundaries, and find common ground to create a positive working environment. Utilise effective communication, stay professional, and remain patient to navigate people successfully. With these techniques, you can turn a challenging situation into a productive and successful client relationship. By managing them with tact and professionalism, you can create a foundation for long-term success and growth for both you and your clients.