Friday, April 15, 2011

Client Retention Obstacle #1: Not Knowing the Client

How well do you know your clients? Most account and project leaders do a good job focusing on the plans to be made, objectives to be accomplished, deadlines to be met and the like. Not enough, however, pay attention to the client relationship, the personal dynamic with those who ultimately judge success or failure.
The anxious client.
I was hired to conduct a client evaluation for an architecture firm whose client was a regional hospital. An interview with the VP of Patient Care Services revealed a gap in the engagement process. When posed with the first question, “Overall how is the experience working with (my client),” the VP responded with one word, “anxious.”

Understand the client’s needs.
When I probed further, I discovered that this was the first major construction project for the VP and she was very concerned about not knowing her role and responsibilities. The VP, a very buttoned up and conscientious person, knew she was a key to success but felt lost about what she should be doing. And her pride kept her from disclosing this to the project lead, who was in the dark about her concerns.

Low Readiness.
This is not an isolated incident.  Many clients do not possess the experience or knowledge to contribute at a high level as effective partners. Organizations today are short staffed and place people in roles outside their capability. It’s no wonder that that anxiety abounds in the workplace and that client retention suffers.

Assessment is key.
Assessing a client’s readiness to lead or contribute to a project should be integrated into the project initiation process.  When done properly, an assessment will tell you the skill and will levels of the client to accomplish the tasks they need to own for a successful project. That, in turn, should guide your efforts to lead the client in the best way, and get the best results.

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