Our Client’s Truth

One of the most important characteristics of our business is the reputation that our business earns with others. What clients, employees, vendors, partners, and competitors think about our business matters a great deal. Our business’s reputation directly affects our success as well as our self-esteem, our pocketbook, and our pride.

It’s also something we don’t have complete control over.

We know how we feel about our business, including what motivates us, what level of service we aim to deliver, and the quality of our products. We have our own truth about our business’s reputation. We can never be completely objective about assessing our own business’s reputation, yet, it’s essential that we take the pulse of our clients and know how they feel about us.

The real challenge comes in when the reputation of your business is not what you’d like it to be. It can become more complex when employees are representing your business and they do something that you as the business owner would never have done.

Stepping into Our Client’s Truth

What can we do when our client’s “truth” differs from ours? First, we need to learn how to step into our client’s shoes to understand their perspective and how it differs from ours. This requires us to be objective in a potentially emotional situation. Let’s take a couple examples.

I had a client tell me that she was extremely upset because my web designer misspelled a word on her website. It was a legitimate complaint: it was clearly a mistake on my employee’s part. My employee’s second language was English, so these mistakes happened. However, my client was right to feel upset because she taught spelling and grammar and could not have a typo on her website without compromising her own reputation. Two different truths challenged the severity of the error. In my employee’s eye, it was a small mistake. In my client’s eye it was monumental.

I had another client come unglued when her website ranked number two in Google. I had taken the steps to get her site that ranking. She thought she should be number one. If I hadn’t done anything, she wouldn’t have been ranked at all. Her site was brand new, and Google gives preference to older sites. My truth was that I had done a great job, and her truth was that I failed miserably.

If we are to deliver excellent service, we must step into our client’s shoes to see what is important to them. When we can align our client’s priorities with our service quality and delivery, our reputation will excel.

Here are the steps to take to get there:

    1. Become aware that what’s important to your client will be different than what is important to you.
    2. When starting to work together, understand what your client values, and define what a good job would be in their mind (not yours).
    3. Assign staff that most closely values what your client values.
    4. Keep the channels of communication open. Periodically ask the client how you are doing.
    5. If a difference arises:

a. Breathe, and detach yourself emotionally as much as you can.

b. Ask the client for a report of what happened and what went wrong from their perspective. Find out why it’s important to them.

c. Ask the client if they were you, how they would like it to be fixed. If you agree, implement the fix.

d. If you don’t agree, you have some options. You can explain to the client your perspective. You can disconnect with the client. Or you can make a counter offer. Whichever you decide should attempt to leave you, the client, and your reputation the best off.

In the case of the typo, we apologized, fixed it, and added an extra level of quality control for this client. The better thing to do would have been to have the conversation up front, and to put the extra level of quality control in at the beginning of the project. The client could then decide whether they wanted to pay for the extra step.

In the case of the search engine optimization, we attempted to education the client on how search engine optimization works, and it didn’t work. We undid what we did, gave a refund, and let that client go, putting her on the “do not do business with again” list. (Yes, we have a list, and so should you!)

Money, Honey

Staying objective when money is involved can be a huge challenge. Follow the same steps as above, with one added twist: make sure your price tag lines up with the value your client perceives your product or service to be worth. Since pricing for products, programs, and services can vary wildly, it’s imperative that we check in with our clients to determine that the value they perceive that they will receive in turn for their price will be fulfilled.

When you and your client have similar truths about the reputation of your business, then you’ve taken a quantum leap in your business success.