The Client Isn’t Always Right, But Clear Communication Is


by Aryeh Powers

As a supplement to my last post, where I wrote about building trust through consistency, I wanted to write about the importance of honesty, integrity and good communication, when it comes to building trust.

I must admit, that throughout my career I have been in many circumstances where I thought I could have done a better job for my client or co-worker, if circumstances had been different. Luckily, in many of those instances my clients and co-workers were satisfied with the result, despite my feeling that my work could have been better.

The most common idiom associated with the customer – business owner relationship is: “the customer is always right.” Thus the ideal situation and circumstance for a service provider to be in, is one in which the client and himself are on the same page about how to solve a particular problem or challenge. For instance, if your client wants 3 specific colors to represent his brand or logo, it would be great if you- the one who is designing his logo- would agree with his opinion. But as many of you know, this is far from being the case frequently.

There are times when a client will ask you to produce or complete a type of project which you as the professional may think is not the best option for your client’s brand. In your attempt to provide the best branding strategy for him/ her as possible, you realize that you have somewhat of a conflict of interest. But what keeps you grounded is the fact that the person that is paying your check is also the one who determines what is sufficient work and what is not for his company, thereby covering you from a professional standpoint. I mean if you asked for it, then what was I supposed to do, right?

Sometimes your client or your boss asks you to complete a project whose scope is unreasonable for you or a project which has a deadline that is not feasible for you and your team. You don’t want to upset the client or co-worker, but telling him that you’ll just do what he’s asking for is also not really an option. How do you approach these situations?

Communication my friend’s is the tool that allows us marketers, as well as other service providers, to  maintain a relationship with clients that we may not be able or willing to provide a particular service to. Some may call this integrity, but I think that in addition to integrity, good communication fosters a level of appreciate among your clients that is an added bonus to your integrity.

You may not always be able to accomplish the tasks that your client or your boss is asking you to do, but how you respond when your faced with this dilemma can ultimately shape your long term relationship with that person.

I have always found that in instances where I was firm about what I could do and what I was unable to accomplish, my clients and co-workers were respectful of my stance. They may have felt differently and wanted a different response, but because they knew that I had been honest and clear about what I could do for them, I had fostered a sense of reliability and trust among them. This can’t be achieved with a simple, “sorry, I can’t do it.” You always need to be as clear as possible about the what’s and why’s of your professional capability.

Saying you can always complete a task or an objective when you can’t is obviously a recipe for disaster. We’ve all promised people things that we have unable to fulfill. Sometimes we have to promise more than we can do, in order to learn what our limits are. But the professionals that are the most trusted – and the ones that all of us will most likely turn to – are the ones that we recognize as being the most honest and clear about the work that they are capable of doing for us.

The same way we learn to trust professionals that are honest and say something like “that job is outside of my scope of work, but I can refer you to someone else” – your clients and co-workers will learn to turn to you and to respect you professionally when you are honest about what your professional value is.

Being honest about where your value lies and where it doesn’t is so important and really relates to the concept of consistency that I wrote in my last post titled “Consistency Consistency Consistency.” Just as Consistency is important in building your clients trust by ensuring them that what they liked about your product or service won’t change, ensuring your clients that you will be clear about what your in house capabilities are and how you achieve results, can be equally important when building trust and rapport with your clients.

Although the video below is not about honesty or integrity, it is about bad communication and what happens as a result. I want to take this opportunity to rant about what has  happened to the Susan G. Komen Foundation as a result of really bad communication. The recent fiasco of the Susan G. Komen Foundation is a great example and case study of what happens when a brand message radically shifts. Watch the video for yourself and see if you can really buy any of the crap that Nancy Brinker is selling (yes, I think she’s full of it).

Know yourself, your strengths, weaknesses and know how to appropriately communicate your value to other professionals. This is integral for for individuals as much as it is for larger organizations (like the Susan G. Komen Foundation). Earning trust and rapport among professional colleges through honesty, integrity and clear communication will always propel you forward in your career long and is the stuff that leaders in any profession are made of.

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