It starts off innocently enough. The client calls and requests something. “Of course we can do that for you, Mr. Client. We’ll try to get that back to you by Friday.” The call ends and the project begins. Oops – we forgot to ask all the people involved if they can meet that deadline. The problem is that Staff A is off on vacation, Staff B and C are fully booked since they have to cover Staff A’s work. And, Staff D cannot do the work required without assistance.
No problem. We’ll just call Mr. Client and let him know that it will be Monday instead. And here’s where the bottom falls out.
What you said is not the same as what was heard.
What was said: “We’ll try to get that back to you by Friday.”
What Mr. Client heard: “It will be done Friday.”
What was said: “Sorry, we cannot have this to you until Monday. Our staff is fully booked.”
What Mr. Client heard: “You aren’t as important as our other clients so we’re pushing your project back and missing our deadline.”
A better way…
- Don’t make promises.
It can’t always be done, but often the client doesn’t need to know when it will be delivered. Sometimes, it is good enough to ensure that it will be done the right way as soon as possible and you will take full responsibility. Taking the burden off the client may be all that is needed.“Mr. Client, I will take care of this for you and get back to you as soon as it is complete.”
- Don’t make promises that other people have to live up to.
If you aren’t the only person required to deliver on a promise, don’t make the promise. When you constantly have to pull in favors from your teammates to meet the promises you’ve made, you lose credibility with those teammates really quickly. “Mr. Client, I’ll get this added to our production schedule and drop you an email with our anticipated delivery date.”
- Ask when it is needed.
Often we assume what the client needs or wants. Do you know what they say about people who assume? It makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. Instead, try asking.“Mr. Client, it usually takes us one week to turnaround this type of work. Will that be okay?” or “When do you need this completed?”
Under Promise – Over Deliver
Sure, sure. You’ve heard that so many times before but it works well. Let’s play our scenario again:
What was said: “Mr. Client, is there is a specific deadline that you would like to meet. Wednesday should be fine but before I can promise that I’ll need to check on our production schedule.”
What Mr. Client heard: “It will be done Wednesday.”
On Monday, the project is delivered.
What Mr. Client thinks “That project went even better than I expected!”