“No, I don’t really like the feel of that…can we add a flashing button or something?”
The sample quote above comes from a recent client of mine with little knowledge or experience in web design or graphics. When a question like this is asked, a trained professional in the field of graphics and web design must try their best to draw the line between the following two theories:
1. The customer is ALWAYS right;
2. The designer has studied marketing applications for years but a client without any design background is requesting changes to be made that verge on the obscene!
It is a difficult undertaking to work with a new client like this, especially when your goal is to make them happy and to ensure that the deliverable is of a high quality.
After about 5 years, I have finally discovered that the best way to deal with this is to first, and most importantly, gain the trust of the client. This will allow you to make suggestions throughout the development process that will now be received with much more appreciation. Without this trust, the client thinks of you as just a business, creating a product and earning revenue.
If you have a small web design company and you work with clients more locally, this relationship building technique is more powerful than you think. There are many ways to develop this at an early stage. Some of these ways are as follows:
– Always be available: if the client calls, try your best to answer the phone. If they leave a message, try to return their call within 30 minutes. Your availability to them creates an instant level of initial satisfaction with your operation. Attempt to continue this level of responsiveness throughout the project and you will reap the benefits very soon afterwards.
– Mole hills can turn into mountains: if the client has an issue or a problem, attempt to resolve it quickly. It may be a small support request in your mind in relation to the 20 other clients that are calling you, but to that one client it is a big problem. They don’t care that you have bigger and more serious problems at that moment. They have a problem and you need to address it. A little hint: no matter how busy you may be, take 3 minutes to respond to their issue and let them know that you are looking into it and that you will have another update for them soon. If you do not already do this you will be amazed at how much time this can buy before you REALLY have to fix the issue.
– Learn from the client: All too often in today’s world, the consumer begins their relationship with a vendor in a defensive frame of mind. This may not necessarily be down to a poor experience in the past with another company. It may be as a result of the consumer’s myopic feeling that every business providing a product or service is out to screw them!
Unfortunately, this is the case with a lot of organizations in the modern world. With regard to the topic of technology and design, I believe that many clients start off defensive in nature with a company like mine because they are not well versed on today’s technology, and thus, display a sense of slight anger and fear. Removing this fear from the client’s mind is a great achievement and carried out correctly, can prove to stabilize a strong and long lasting relationship with that client. Long lasting, satisfied customers means stable income and a successful business for you, doing what you love!
The client is not always right. Don’t be afraid to help them and give them your suggestions throughout the duration of the design project. If you have built the trust and the strong foundation from the start, and strive to continue this level of commitment to the client and the client’s wishes, then you will quickly learn that YOU CAN tell the client that their idea is terrible, if it really is!
Friends are there to give you the truth. Be a friend to your client and the product at the end of the development will be better that you could have created on your own!
Brian Yerkes is Owner of AURORA Web Technology, a graphic and web design firm located in Ft. Myers, Florida. AURORA Web Technology provides high quality designs and applications, and treats each client with the personal touch lost in so many IT companies today.