Working in a service business can feel like an amazingly thankless endeavor. A client relationship can be tough when the relationship feels like a one way street with one side always giving and the other always demanding more. Have you ever felt that way about a client relationship? Sometimes we get so caught up in results and our day-to-day that we forget to treat people like people.
Don’t get me wrong I love working with people to solve problems in their business. It’s what I do best. However, there are certain instances or relationships that give me pause at times.
I had a former client who used to treat me and my team like they were hired help. They, as some people tend to do, had the attitude that if they paid someone for work then they could treat those people however they liked. Their mindset was that they owned us. We were property to them.
The ironic thing about this story is that the client hired us to help them with their client relations. They work in a service industry where people don’t come to them unless something bad has happened. This puts them in a touchy spot to begin with. They had a hard time building solid client relationships and they wanted to know what they could do to fix this.
During the process of working with this client, it immediately appeared that they thought that since they gave us a check that we should just figure this situation out and that they didn’t want to be bothered with the problem. Their mentality was “Don’t come back until you have a solution for us.” Again it was that ownership mentality.
This put a real strain on the relationship as we don’t work like that with clients. We don’t work for them but with them to help identify the solution that best fits the client. In the end, this relationship with our client was not successful as we could not seem to find a way to get on the same page.
One lesson that I learned from this experience was in setting the right context and expectations at the beginning before we ever took a check. Screening your clients up front is so important to ensure that you are working with clients that best fit your business. In this case, we did a poor job communicating our expectations of the project up front.
On the flip side of this is a need for business owners to have some emotional intelligence with how they deal with consultants, contractors and employees. I put myself right in there with them as there have been times where I have also been guilty of treating contractors poorly.
It could be argued with great success that relationship capital is the most important form of capital that you can have. Rich Christiansen recently reminded me of this. Ultimately when you lose money, you can always make more. When you burn relationships, it’s much harder to win those back. You don’t have to worry about that if you treat people like people.