The customer is always right phrase has been tossed around the business world for years. The intent of the phrase is good: serve the client and exceed expectations. The problem is that in our desire to serve and exceed expectations, we often don’t set clear expectations with clients to insure mutual success. Great business relationships are built when both the vendor and customer accomplish goals.
For example, how many of you have sold a product/service to a new customer and then find disaster hitting. The deal is falling apart because the customer isn’t honoring commitments on their end of the agreement. Information needed from the customer to move forward on a project is missing. Key people from the client side aren’t attending meetings and deadlines are missed.
In an effort to serve, your team puts on their tennis shoes and starts jumping through hoops to achieve the promises stated in the proposal and sales conversation. They are trying hard but success is a two-way street and the goals can’t be accomplished without the client partnering with the vendor each step of the way.
So what can you do to insure a successful launch of a new client? Create an on-boarding process for new clients. This process might include a hand-off meeting from the salesperson to the operations team or client services team. During the hand-off meeting, apply the emotional intelligence skills of reality testing and assertiveness. Discuss potential elephants (problems) that can jeopardize success such as:
- Deadlines and needed information. Get very clear on what your team needs in order to achieve milestones. Discuss the uncomfortable. Is the customer okay with changing a deadline if their team fails to supply necessary information in a timely manner?
- People involvement. Everyone is has busy schedules and so availability of personnel can be a predictable obstacle to success. Talk about this potential problem---before it becomes a problem! What’s the plan if key stakeholders can’t make it to a meeting? How does their lack of participation affect goals and milestones?
You get the idea. Keep the intent of serving and exceeding client expectations. Apply reality testing and assertiveness skills and set clear expectation for mutual success. Remember, success is a two way street between a vendor and client doing what they said they would do.