As a business owner, I usually experience client interaction from the opposite side, but as things go, each coin has two sides, and I, too, get to experience being a client myself. When I take the part of the client I try to take advantage of the fact that I am familiar with providing services, to be the ideal client. Why?
Why should I want to become an "ideal client"? I purchased a service, or a product, and I am supposed to get it. What does my being ideal have to do with all this?
Last year I was searching for a certain service. After a long time, I arrived at a place that seemed fit for me. I took the recommended steps; I explored and asked around, browsed through portfolios and read recommendations. We talked and we met. Everything looked so promising. I received a price offer, paid the full amount happily, with no arguments whatsoever. I performed all that was required of me in a fast and ordinate way, thinking that here I was – the ideal client. And yet, things turned out not so well; the service I received did not satisfy me, the product failed to meet my expectations, I spent more money than I intended to, I wasted plenty of time, and I was really frustrated. I knew I chose a place, which was professional and highly evaluated, with dozens of satisfied clients, so why didn’t it work for me?
I started thinking…
Who is the ideal client ?
An ideal client is one that enables the professional to do the best job the professional can provide!
Isn't it true you want to get the maximum return for the money you spend? What can you do to contribute to your success?
Here is the secret, in ten, simple steps:
1. Trust. You chose a professional, and now you must have faith in him that he will do his job and that he has your best interest at heart. He is a professional, and as an ideal client you should listen to his advice. After all, that's why you went to see him in the first place. I can honestly say that once a client trusts me, my ability to find the right solutions for him increases.
2. Sincere feedback. When something isn't working for you – say it. Who knows you better than your own self? You can say: "I don't like having long conversations / I feel I am most efficient in face-to-face talks / I don't like the plans because… / talks about colors don't really interest me / I want you to ask for my approval for each purchase / spare me all of these decisions / this piece of furniture is really not my cup of tea / I don't like the lighting consultant you brought because… / the prices are too high / the look is too cheap."
Don't be afraid to say what you actually think (in a nice way, and to the point). It will be more efficient if we all point our efforts at the right direction!
3. Compliment. In a sincere and honest way. When something is good – say it! Explain what worked for you, and why. This is how we can figure out what is working and hit-a-home-run again and again. Besides, compliments are the fuel that keep us going…
4. Respond. The architect left you a message? Sent you an e-mail? Please respond. You can call back, reply by e-mail or even text a short message. The main point is that the other party must know where things are holding. Sometimes, your answers are essential to keep the process going, and at other times, it is simply polite… If you don't have time, take moment to text "got it. Will handle it next week".
5. Take the word "urgent" out of your vocabulary. Few things are actually urgent. For sure, it is important to you. You can say "it's important to me!. It is important that things are handled efficiently, it is important too that you don't miss anything due to short time schedules. Therefore, think honestly what the real time-frame for the project is, and define it with the professional. If we are strict about using the word "urgent" only in urgent situations, we shall discover great help in such situations. Take into account that as a client, you too have a part in the process. It is your job to approve the plan / pay for the order / decide on a color… Whatever – if the task was defined as urgent, it obliges you to hold your part of the deal, urgently, too* (links to 8, below).
6. Provide relevant information. If you don't tell me you have a collection of 300 salt shakers, how will I know that? (Based on a true story. Good thing that the information was revealed a moment before sending the plans to the carpenter. All's well that ends well).
7. Payment (according to the job's value, on time and with glee).
First, you should pay the appropriate exchange in return to the work you wish to receive. If you think you made the deal of your life by "stripping the contractor's pants off" you could not be more wrong. As the saying goes: you get what you paid for. If you pay the full value, you tell the world: this is the expected value for me. The professional gets: this is the value I am expected to provide.
Second, pay on time. Beyond the fact that the prompt payment is required for the actual survival of the business, and clearly, you do not want it to go bankrupt, the act of payment is your chance to show your appreciation to the work of the professional you hired.
Third, pay happily. The money will change hands anyway. You should consider yourself lucky that you are able to pay for something that means a lot to you, something you wanted, and that answers your needs.
8. Commitment to the process. Isn't it important to you that the individual you hired for the job is committed to you, to your house, to your project? How will the other side know how important this is to you? By the level of your commitment. It is unreasonable to expect that your interests be more important to someone else than they are for you.
Examples shall further clarify the point: one day, a client called me, and she explains she needs me urgently in her house, that same week. My schedule was already fully booked. I could not see how I can find time for her, but I really wanted to help – it sounded urgent! What do I do? I quickly thought things over, and realized that if I reschedule two less urgent meetings, work later that day and pass on a personal activity, which was important for me, I can make it on Wednesday. However, Wednesday didn't work for her. And why? She had a manicure appointment that she just couldn't reschedule. Funny, isn't it? At that moment, I realized that it is not that important for her…
9. Respect. No need to roll out the red carpet for the carpenter or stand up whenever the designer walks in the room. Respect the working hours of the professional, don't call at unacceptable hours (what's considered acceptable hours is subjective – find them out for each professional), arrive to meetings on time and maintain your agreed working procedures.
10. I saved the best for last, as this secret is first and foremost to everything else: an ideal client fits the service provider and the service provider fits him, like a glove fits a hand. Again, I wish to use an example to clarify my point: imagine that you are going to buy a chair for your desk. You found out that in "Jezebel" there are great products for great prices (don't try and look up this store, I made it up). You enter the store, the salesperson is kind, the chairs look nice, the color you want is in their catalogue and the price meets your budget requirement. You sit on the chair. This chair won every possible prize; "innovative design," "technological breakthrough," "the chosen chair for the physiotherapists union." However, this chair is not comfortable for you! The chair is perfect, and so are you, only you do not work together – it does not fit you. Get the message? So what to do?
A. It is important to interview the professional, but it is just as important to be interviewed by him. It is really important you know that the other side chose you, as the right client for him, and as the right job for him. The wrong assumption is that the business wants every client it can get. This is not so. The business only wants clients that fit it. I pray each day for G-d to send me the clients that are right for me, so that I can be successful in my job, and do what is right for them.
B. You started working and you get the feeling that the other party isn't providing its best? he must feel it too. The two of you want success, and still, you won't have it… Don't be resentful, don't badmouth, don't even feel bad or frustrated. Try discussing it with them. If you did everything in your power to be the ideal client, and still it doesn't work… you should simply go your separate ways.
C. When recommending a professional to your friends (because that's what ideal clients do) It is not enough to say: She is excellent! You won't regret this choice! etc. Be sure to describe the work process and the points you were satisfied with. This way, your friends can hear and decide whether this fits them. By the way, the things that you didn't like are also important as they enable your friend to consider – perhaps the way which was not as good for you is just what your friend needs?
In order to write this post from the widest perspective possible, I referred the question "who is your ideal customer?" to dozens of business owners. It was interesting to find out that the answers were similar, no matter what the business and the specific nature of the clients. Here are some of the answers I received. Please note what is absent – perhaps a few myths about business owners will be shattered:
"An ideal client for me is a client that enjoys receiving what I have to give and values the giving. This shows in payment according to what we set, and in kind words after the job is done (and sometimes even during the work). The most fun is if they pay it forward and share their joy with others, these are clients I just want to cover in hugs and kisses"
"An ideal client is the client that understands that I have something to give him, that respects me and my time just as I respect him and his time, who is happy to pay me for my excellent service, and who can identify the perks this service brings him".
"My ideal client flows with me, and we think together. It is a client who is constantly happy that I am there for him, and the one who realizes that the payment I ask for fits my work, and doesn't push me to get a discount"
"…Pays on time, without arguing, and meets the predetermined conditions"
"The ideal client for me is the one I have good chemistry with"
"An ideal client for me: open and attentive, 'flowing'. Making his decisions quickly / in a reasonable time. Responds quickly to e-mails / phone calls. Trusting and not suspicious."
I wish you an ideal experience as clients!