We’ve all heard the adage, the ‘customer is always right’, and although it’s a nice sentiment, it’s not always true. As a business owner, it’s important to ensure client satisfaction, regardless of what product or service you’re selling. However, what if the client you’re working for asks for something that you know will harm their business? As a designer, I run into this issue all the time. Clients hire me to create their brand, I take the time to understand their vision, and then, using my experience and knowledge, I create something that I know will work for them.
Then delivery day comes, and the client comes back inspired and full of tweaks and ideas to really make the design ‘pop’. The problem is that sometimes the things they ask for, like an illegible font or an out-dated colour scheme is actually going to hurt their brand.
So, what do you do? You don’t want to risk losing the client, but you also don’t want to create something you’re not proud of, and that doesn’t serve their business effectively. It can be a tricky balance to find, and one that most business owners (regardless of industry) struggle with throughout most of their career.
Communicate Effectively to the “Customer Always Right”
As with anything, finding the right balance between speaking up and shutting up can be difficult, but it’s necessary to ensure the project succeeds, and the client feels heard. We live in a world where a million other people are doing almost exactly what you do, so having the ability to keep clients happy, while respecting their brand and business can be a difficult line to toe.
Ensuring effective communication from the beginning of the project will help your client feel more comfortable and thus, more open to your suggestions. Actually listening to what they say, and finding ways in which to implement their ideas effectively will help build trust, and make it much easier to influence them away from future questionable decisions.
Never say no
In almost every business, we’re taught to never say no, and although this is generally a pretty good rule, it’s not the same as always saying yes. You can find a way to communicate your concerns while still making your client feel comfortable.
Instead of saying NO, try to communicate in a way that shows you value their input, and want to work with them, not against them. If you’ve run into an issue with a client, instead of saying no, try saying something like this:
“I understand why you would like that, but have you considered how choosing that may affect the way your business is received?”
“I want to ensure that your brand speaks to the correct audience and presents the right message, and if we go with ______________, I’m worried we may be sending mixed messages.”
Another trick is to talk about it in terms of ‘we’ – this helps make them feel like they are a part of the process, and it’s a collaboration instead of a one-man show.
Remember that you are the expert
Always remember, they hired you because of your skills and knowledge, and at the end of the day, they want what’s best for their business (most of the time). Sometimes, however, they can get a little caught up in the process, and may forget that you are, in fact, the expert. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take their ideas and concepts into consideration. In fact, if you’re not listening to the client, then that’s a bigger issue. However, what this does mean is that sometimes you just need to give them a gentle reminder of why they hired you.
Most people are pretty visual, so finding a way to show the client how and why your idea solves the problem can sometimes make all the difference. If all else fails, remind them why they hired you in the first place. Feel free to bring up previous projects where you solved a similar problem, and explain how and why your idea will better serve their business.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
When deciding if you should speak up or shut up, you should always ask yourself if their idea is objectively bad, or if you just personally don’t like that font, or picture (or idea). Taking your personal preferences out, and relying solely on what you know within your industry as a professional will ensure that you are always working with their best interests in mind. This will also help you keep your sanity, because arguing with a client about each and every choice will not only drive you crazy, it will drive them away.
At the end of the day, you have to remember that this business is their baby, and although they do want what’s best, sometimes they’re too close to make the right choice. Its up to you to ensure the product or service you’re providing will serve their business, and although that can be difficult sometimes, in the end your clients will thank you.