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How to build relationships with a customer

Every project manager development company sometimes thinks that customers belong to a different planet. Misunderstanding may occur even in situations where everything seemed to be clear and obvious. There is a temptation to give up, but the only thing a manager should do is to take a fresh look at a customer.

The article is based on the report of Citronium project manager Ekaterina Kurmanaeva.

Sooner or later everybody finds a very special man – customer. The centre of communication. We often forget that a customer is just a person, who is often stressed out or in an emotional time. Of course he or she cannot always explain what they want.

Misunderstanding of customers needs and wishes is the most straightforward way for a manager to nervous breakdown. Not to go nuts sooner than needed, we suggest them having a different perspective on a customer and treat clients as somebody different from them, but at the same time a dear and emotional person. For example, like a girlfriend!

Treat a customer like a girlfriend?

A customer is more often a strict looking man in a suit with a business like approach to life. And a girlfriend… is a girlfriend. What do they have in common? A lot!

● You don’t understand how they are thinking. Their internal world is very different from yours, that’s why at first you are afraid of suggesting new ideas.

● You really want to impress them (in a nice way).

● You feel hurt, when your efforts are neglected.

● Both of them can be picky.

● Both of them are rather demanding and want to be your one and only.

● Fights and misunderstandings with both of them influence your budget as well as the health of your nervous system.

So if there are so much in common, can we use similar strategies with both of them? Let’s try.

On the same page

Psychologies states that the most important in the relationships is that your goals must coincide. For instance, you work all day long, earn money and let your girlfriend have a lot of time on self-development. But she doesn’t value it. Why? Because she needs your attention, not your valiant efforts and ambitious plans for the future. She wants to have a talk to feel your support and devotion. That’s why ask a customer in the beginning what is the most essential for them now.

Imagine that a customer wants to enter the market as soon as possible, and a team has decided to give a go to all brand-new design trends in the project. What will the manager say, when they let down the customer’s expectations? “We have spent a lot of time on the design, give us another 2 weeks! Yes, we don’t meet deadlines, but we do our best for the sake of your project!” Will the customer understand it? Maybe, but not straight away. So find out what is pivotal in the project and prioritize it.

I want this, and that, and right now

There is an old joke: when a man goes to buy a vacuum cleaner, he buys a vacuum cleaner. A woman goes to the shop to buy a vacuum cleaner and buys a dress, shoes, new parfum, coffee machine. As a result she couldn’t afford a vacuum cleaner. The same happens to a customer.

“I want an app for ordering pizza. The most important is pizza ordering. Also I want to add special offers feature. Oh… and a chat for clients. Let’s add a better menu and change colours too…” The main problem which units women and customers is that they may be focused on the details a way too much and get distracted from the main idea. And the time goes by, the budget doesn’t grow.

That’s why to keep within the budget, a project manager should reiterate relevant positions. With girlfriend it would look like this: “Honey, let’s buy a vacuum cleaner first and than look for the dress”. The same works with the customer: important things first, optional later.

Don’t promise me the moon

A woman says: “My boyfriend promised me the moon in the honeymoon phase of our relationships! Where is it? What a disappointment!” As a result a “sweetheart” turns into someone bad one. Not to become a bad person in the process of project management a manager should not promise the moon and the stars. Customers do have good memory when it concerns promises and have supernatural abilities to monitor “promised-done” pattern.

At the same time this rule doesn’t mean that the communication with a customer should be limited. What do women like? Daily calls, compliments, saying “good night”, etc. Disappearing for a couple of days? No way! Try not to call a girlfriend for a couple of days. If you are lucky, she will just stop speaking with you for a while. With a customer you won’t be even that lucky, because a person may start panicking. And with a reason, as the agency is responsible for his project and money. So the customer may start “torturing” you with calls and angry emails with a lot of questions. They do it just to feel that their project is not neglected. So a good manager should initiate communication themselves, within reasonable reasons not to start being annoying.

Patience, hard work and personal involvement

If a girlfriend overreacts, it means that she doesn’t know how to manage a problem. She feels hurt, depressed, puzzled, etc. It does not matter what the problem is and whose fault it is. Even if it is not your fault, the worst solution is trying to prove your point and start arguing. The manager’s behavior is the facade of customers’ relationships with a company. That’s why it’s time to pick yourself up. In a crisis a person sees only bad sides, because they see how something very important for them goes wrong. So both a girlfriend and a customer may need time to calm down. Give them some. Explain the situation calmly and the next steps that should be taken to overcome the crisis. A manager should do their best to inform a customer about the ongoing work. It can be hourly reports, regular emails or other. Also take stock and work hard to avoid similar problems next time.

It’s worth it!

The longer your relationships exists, the calmer and faster crisis situations are solved, the more the customer trusts you and it influences beneficial both the manager’s nervous system and the company’s budget. Our article is a joke, but we hope that it will help you to have another look at a customer as at somebody dear and important for you. It is much easier to sincerely love your clients and try to understand them.

Thanks to Alexander Belyaev  and Olga Belyaeva for the photo illustrations to the article!