Sometimes clients have a very rigid idea of what they want and there’s very little you can do to persuade them otherwise. In these situations, it’s important to remember that though the client’s needs are paramount, you are the one with the expert knowledge. This source of potential conflict can be further challenged when operating in an industry with a client in transformation. For example, what might have been a great deployment plan for a plant-based system might now be different with the migration towards global, multi-site IT systems.
No matter what sector you work in or what service you provide, in most cases the client has hired you because they do not have the knowledge or the means to do it themselves. If this wasn’t the case, then they wouldn’t have hired you in the first place. Don’t be afraid to share your expertise even if it doesn’t fit your client’s exact specifications.
There are some sectors, particularly surrounding creative subjects, where everyone thinks they’re an expert. Design is a particularly good example. Almost every designer out there has a story or two about difficult clients who believe they already know everything there is to know about design despite never having had any training or experience. This can be very frustrating but it is important to remember that you are the expert even when your client is trying to convince you otherwise.
The best way to deal with this situation is to listen carefully to what your client wants, and then make suggestions as to what you would do to improve upon it. Don’t tell them they’re wrong, but make them aware that there are better alternative options. Ultimately, it’s the client’s decision – but it’s your responsibility to share your expertise with them and to try and help them make good decisions.
But what about when your client does actually know what they’re doing? Even when you’re dealing with an industry expert, it’s important to remember that just because they have a clear idea of what they want, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not open to suggestions. For example, surface preparation and finishing equipment manufacturer, Airblast AFC, was recently called upon to install two blast rooms for The Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center – the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States. This formidable client had a very detailed, tight specification for their blasting facility but Airblast AFC quickly spotted one major element of the design that they knew could be dramatically improved.
The client had specified an auger screw recovery floor to collect used abrasives, but they were unable to put a pit in the floor. This meant that they would have to have a very high raised floor to fit the system in. Airblast AFC realised that this could be a potential problem. Rather than simply ploughing ahead, they recommended a different option. They suggested that the facility would be much better served by a sweeper recovery floor, which would not only allow for a much lower raised floor (only six inches instead of three feet), but would also provide a more efficient solution all round. Rock Island was happy to accept Airblast AFC’s suggestion, and the installation went ahead.
This example shows the importance of using your expertise even if your client has already decided what they want. In the end, the Airflex floor example, which undoubtedly helped increase the efficiency of the blasting facility, showed how working together can lead to a win-win situation, ultimately creating a better outcome for the client, even though it wasn’t what they’d originally envisioned. It’s in everyone’s best interest to share knowledge you have that could improve the overall outcome for your client. If you have a better solution, share it and in the end the client will thank you for it.
Ella Mason can be found on Google+.