From a clients point of view, these times of restraint with limitations on time and resources dictate, more than ever before, that successful projects be delivered correctly on time and budget the first time around.
Projects that are completed on time and reach everyone’s expectations create a valuable feeling of accomplishment for all parties involved. The client is happy with the result and proud to refer the contractor and participate in their continued success. The contractor has a heightened sense of accomplishment and purpose and will be eager to answer the phone on priority when a new need arises. New needs always come up. Prefered clients also often benefit from exclusive opportunities as the contractor knows they are easy to work with.
An unsatisfactory outcome is often a result of unclear expectations or objectives, miss-communication, poor delegation and vague timelines.
The most successful projects are the ones where all parties are working in optimal conditions.
These five points will help make you a dream client and a pleasure to work with.
Buy, don’t be sold.
When you buy something, you are fulfilling your needs. If you are buying something you don’t need by an enthusiastic salesperson, you are meeting someone else’s needs. Just like you, it is their job to create a need and sell their products. When approached by a salesperson offering a product or service you did not solicit, before even offering them any time for a meeting, ask that they send you their information by email. Request that they send you prices, examples of their work, their website etc. Their ability to follow up and willingness to provide this information itself will serve as a testimonial to their professionalism. It is standard practice to get three quotes from professionals before choosing one to complete a project. When you decide who works on your project, you are in the driver’s seat. You have gone through the process of determining that you need the product or service and have chosen the right person to work on it.
Be specific about our needs.
When you need a product or service, be as specific as possible when requesting quotes. Do your thinking in advance, provide examples of what the finished product might look like, or what your particular objectives are. It is helpful to have these needs listed in point form.
An example of this could be the need for a photographer to take headshots for a professional real estate website.
Your list of objectives might look like this:
- Headshots for eight real estate agents
- Full body shot for eight real estate agents with background and landscape
- The photos to be used for the website and print
Pick the right person for the job.
It’s human nature to always go to the same source when they claim to be capable of fulfiling your needs. The truth is that the “Jack of all trades” from the past, or the “One-stop shop” is no longer the place to fill your business needs. Professionals who focus on developing their own skills sets tend to be more efficient and produce a much higher quality than individuals who claim to be able to do it all. Try to choose the professional who specialises in precisely in your area of need. The cost should be the same, but the result will be much better as everyone involved will have a much higher level of confidence which will translate to a superior product.
Using the example above, you would seek a professional photographer who specialises in portraits, as opposed to a photographer accustomed to taking architectural, landscape or product shots. Ask for samples of their past work.
Create a clear project scope with milestones and deadlines.
A clear project scope is a specific list of deliverables which minimises ambiguity to what tasks are part of the original project. Scope creep, a term used when a client adds new requests that were not part of the original plan. The request often starts with “Can you just?”. Often these requests are innocent, and often professionals will reluctantly oblige their clients and follow through with the small addition. The problem arises when the additional workload puts pressure on the original project, and it goes over budget, deadlines are missed, or the quality of the final project is jeopardised. In all three cases, the customer is almost always dissatisfied with the result. If there are other, unforeseen tasks or products needed along the way, add them to the end of the project to be considered if the budget or time allows.
Divide your project into quantifiable milestones. Milestones, attached to deadlines, mark specific points in time along a project timeline to track major progress points that must be reached to achieve success. Agreed upon in advance, this holds all parties accountable and ensures the project is moving forward on schedule. If there is more than one payment to be made for the project, it can be helpful to attach a payment schedule to milestones and deadlines.
Continuing with the example above, the project scope with milestones would look like this:
Project Scope: 1 headshot and 1 body shot required for eight real estate agents.
April 9 – Photoshoot at the real estate office
April 16 – Proofs presented in PDF form for realtors to chose their favourite
April 18 – list of selected photos returned to the photographer for retouching
April 25 – Images ready to download for use in web and print applications.
Use clear, concise communication.
The lines of communications must remain open and fluid between a professional, their client and vice versa. Confidence and surety from both sides are paramount to the success of the project. If you are unsure of the quality or progress of your project, contact your contractor or service provider as soon as possible. Whether you are contacting him in person, by telephone, email or text, be as specific and concise as possible. No matter the level of dissatisfaction try to maintain a level of neutrality and optimism. Remember that your objective is the successful completion of the project. Errors occur, and the diplomatic and fluid conversation will offer the best chance for your project to land back on track.
When you are a good customer by being clear about your objectives and deadlines, you are creating a synergetic environment where everyone is working under the optimal circumstances which set the project up for success. Successful projects tend to be profitable for all parties involved, which fosters an environment where all parties are eager to work together again. It’s this thriving environment that creates long-lasting business relationships that stand the test of time.