David Frederick's | iAIR BLOG

Consulting, Innovation, Strategy, Vision, Education, & Ideation

When Clients Drive Your Business and Drive You Crazy!

Have you ever had a client or clients that totally hijacked your business operation, strategic direction, product/service development OR innovation funnel? I bet if your like most organizations, I am sure you have.

Why do organizations do this? Is it desperation? Lack of confidence in their offering? Is the customer is always right as the old saying goes? I don’t think so. Customer service is one thing, but what do you do when a customer totally hijacks your business by demanding you add functionality to your product, or demands you do something you don’t typically do, etc? Well, there are a couple of pretty straight forward options here right? Obviously you can either say no and redirect, but what if that doesn’t work? OR you can acquiesce and comply. Either way its a lose lose for your organization.

Now you may say, if you had a strong relationship with your client this wouldn’t happen right? Wrong! To many times your customers under the guise of “partnership” will beat you up and totally take you off track. They just do it with a smile.

Over my 25 years of experience, I have seen over and over again organizations trying to win, keep or drive more revenue from their customers when the customer demands things that are unrealistic, out of scope, or not something you simply dont do. BUT….. because you want to make the client happy, you do it…. at the cost of revenue, time, focus, direction and support. I have seen it time and time again. The bigger your customer the tougher it is. Lets say your a large global organization. This organization can use its market position to force you to do what you don’t want to do i.e. “if you want to do business with megamart XYZ, you need to do it this way because this is how we do it.” So you are left with little choice or options.

So what can you do? Try these as a potential remedy to this problem:

1: Set very clear objectives and expectations on your deliverables, offerings and relationship
2: Maintain “go forward” expectations. Ask questions about future uses of your products, services etc., to understand potential hurdles
3: Know that your client will want more from you or your product and services and will more than likely ask you to do things you cant or wont do. Be prepared. Set expectations.
4: Stand firm. If the client wants something your product or service doesn’t do, you will need to take a stand, redirect, look for a work around or ultimately walk away. But be prepared to lose the business. Acquiescence is not a positive, productive or profitable option.
5: Work to build a true partnership and communicate. Most issues like this are a result in lack of clear and effective communication between parties both in your company and with your clients.
6: Ask questions. Why are they asking you these questions? What’s really driving this objective? Are their alternative solutions and work arounds? Why do they want to do what they claim they want to do? Discuss the impact to both you and they client by taking the action being discuss (demanded). By asking penetrating questions, you may discover what they are trying actually do and what they say they want to do are two different things. You will save your self a lot of money, time, energy, focus, etc. by asking questions.

Look, this stuff isn’t binary. Its complex, multifaceted, intertwined with other initiatives, business units, etc. and its sensitive. The real problem is if you acquiesce, you run the very real and probable risk or losing focus, changing your road map away from your core product or service spec, spending money you don’t have on promises, compromising your vision and confusing your market position. Yes, one large client can do all of this. I have seen it. I have seen the millions of dollars of wasted investment, distraction, employee moral plummet, resentment and ultimately a very bad business relationship will ensue. Not good.

Is there a way to strike a balance? Most likely there is, if you follow some of the rules above. It ultimately comes down to communication and expectation. But doesn’t most things in life! Let me know what you think. Have you ever had this experience?

Thanks,
-DF

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Written by David Frederick

July 30, 2009 at 5:16 PM

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