As business owners, being client focused is not just who we are, it’s how we survive and thrive. It’s our job to approach each client with the expectation to WOW them and to over exceed their expectations of us and our products or services. All of our goals include long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with clients we’ve been able to help and deliver our promise to.
When it becomes unhealthy is when we don’t say NO for fear of losing them. How many times have you edited a project for a client over 5 times? Have you answered a client text at midnight just because you were up? Do you sometimes compromise on your morals or sacrifice how you would normally do things to please a client? If you answered yes to one, two or all of these questions, then you are suffering from what is called a ‘breakdown in boundaries’.
When you manage client expectations and they have their clear expectations of you — upfront, at the beginning — it leads to a healthy relationship. A disconnect in their expectations erodes trust. For example, if you only reply to text messages before 5pm, you should be very clear with the client up front and stick to it. If you only do 3 edits on a project before you charge, be upfront with that information and make sure you put it in writing. If you don’t do well under pressure and you stick strictly to timelines and procedures, then make sure the client knows that. Their change of deadline or project scope should not be a stressful event for you.
Boundaries and expectations are in harmony with each other. When you’re clear about what YOUR expectations of the client are, and meet their expectations, clients are more likely to respect the boundaries you set.
We sometimes shoot ourselves in the foot by being overly eager with our new clients, becoming uber responsive, or prioritizing them over older clients by responding quicker than you normally would. Don’t get me wrong. I think that’s a good practice to have with old and new clients, but keep in mind, you are setting an expectation when you do this. Once your business grows and you are no longer the one responding to emails, or if you are engaged in the actual work they hired you to do, responding promptly might be a challenge each and every time.
Communication boundaries are the biggest and most critical of all boundaries to set. Be specific about how, when, and what means you want to be communicated with. Be clear about your response time for each of these methods as well. This will ultimately protect your sanity and will allow you to focus on the end results.
Setting boundaries as a business owner does not mean that you aren’t client focused. You can still receive their feedback and accommodate any client request, within reason. Not only do boundaries help you have a better healthy work environment, but they also ensure that you’re creating the best foundation for you and your clients’ future relationship.
Tell us on Facebook what boundaries you set with clients, and how have they been receptive to them?
“Customers care about how you make them feel, and if you respect them. You do those two things, and they will in turn respect you for not being a pushover, for doing things your way — and that, at the end of the day, is the kind of client you want to have”L. Renee’ Chubb