What are your Obligations to your Client?

I am often asked the secret to maintaining effective, smooth, productive and long-lasting relationships with my clients, many of which have spanned across careers let alone companies. My answer is, it doesn’t just happen, you have to work at it. If any company wants to establish and preserve a smooth relationship with its clients, it must first recognize its obligations to the client.

First, of course, the company must perform. Good continuing performance compensates for a great many shortcomings in other areas. I f a company is to survive it must be well staffed with thoroughly competent professional who consistently produce good results for its clients.

Second the company must respect the client. There are, of course, some companies and some executives who don’t deserve respect—and some companies as well. However, if a company feels that way about a prospective client, it should not accept the client. The relationship won’t last long in any case, so why begin it? From the compaRespect, Integrity and Honestyny point of view, the motto should be: respect them or reject them.

The company owes the client honesty. The company contact or representative must level with the client at all times – even when it hurts … and sometimes it will. But the long-term effect is to build an atmosphere of trust, confidence and credibility that will help cement the client/company relationship.

Another obligation the company has to the client is responsiveness. When the client needs something, or thinks he does, the company must respond to the need promptly and vigorously – no matter how small Responsivnessor unimportant it may seem to the company. One of the surest ways I know of cut short a relationship is to ignore a client’s request.

Leadership is another requirement. The company must develop and maintain the creative initiative…anticipate the client’s needs…keep the ball in the client’s court. The company needs to always be the driving force.

I may seem obvious not it is far too often neglected and that is the company owes the client interest.It’s not enough anymore to preform excellently but woodenly. In fact, it probably isn’t possible. If you don’t get deeply involved in the affairs of your client you can’t do a good job for them – whether it’s the client holding the company at arm’s length or the company holding itself from total involvement.

The company must get itself deeply involved and fully committed in its client’s business and still maintain objectivity. This is never easy to do if you’re really close to problem and interests of the client, but it is absolutely Objectivityessential. One of the major reasons for a client to hiring a company – particularly one that specializes in management consulting or marketing – is for the objectivity that the company can bring to the client. If the company loses that objectivity, it also loses much of its value.

Presuming the company does have the necessary degree of objectivity, it must also have guts. Whenever the client is wrong—as even the best of them will be from time to time – the company representative must tell them so…politely, firmly and intelligently. The company’s position must be presented in terms relevant to the client and should be tight with all the specifics you are able to muster. The company must plead its case forcefully and honestly… and I must suggest here that alternate avenues of actions to replace that envisioned by the client will most likely add to your success in dissuading the client from what could be a disastrous action.

No list of company obligations would be complete without this last little beauty, and it is perhaps the most obvious, point. The company always owes every client in every situation its best efforts. In my own experience, I’ve found

Best Efforts

that even the most difficult client will recognize and respect honest effort. No company scores 100%, we all drop the ball at one time or another. But is our average is good and we always give our best effort, most clients will respect that most of the time. And that’s all we can ask.

This brief summary certainly isn’t exhaustive. Rather it’s simply representative of what a company owes to its clients. Hopefully my comments will stimulate a few comments and questions.

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