About a couple of weeks back, I had an email from a friend who wanted a “software”. I called him up & told him that we don’t do softwares, but we are only into Web development. I don’t always mention to them that we are not a services company, but we are a company that develops & sell WordPress & WooCommerce plugins. I don’t mention all this because most people are not from an IT background & not everyone knows what WordPress is.
So I told him we don’t do softwares, but I can do a web application for you if that is something you are fine with. He said ok. And then he sends me an email with his requirements. The requirements were summed up in 4 lines. I called him up & told him that I would need more than just those 4 lines. I asked him a couple of questions & there came in something new from him.
That’s where I grilled him & said that you need to write down whatever you want this web application to do. It could be a 100 things, but it needs to come out of your mind & to be put on paper before we can meet. I didn’t want to meet with such generic requirements.
So I convinced him on the phone to detail his requirements further & email me back. He hesitantly agrees. I get an email back from him within 30 minutes of that phone call. I was expecting him to spend some more time. He concentrated more on getting out an email to me fast instead of spending enough time on the requirements.
The point I am making here is that the Customer is NOT always right. You don’t always need to agree with your customer. But you need to train them. You need to train them so they understand that the path they are asking you to take for their web/software development is not the most efficient one.
I have had a client with whom I’ve spent more than 3 sessions (more than 1.5 hours each) over a period of 2 years. Everytime we met, we had a sheet of requirements, we used to discuss costing, timelines, technology. One thing was always common from their side: We need this asap as we have an event coming up in 15 days where we want to launch this.
In my last meeting (in about April 2014), I told them that if you want something in 15 days, then at the earliest, what we can have is a home page. That’s where we left it.
I haven’t heard back from them ever since. They haven’t yet gone ahead with revamping their website. I couldn’t tell them in more explicit terms that please please please take a decision & move forward. It’s not helping anyone that you are stuck on it for over 2 years.
Client training is especially important for such customers – who expect unreasonable deadlines & insist on a meeting when they are not yet clear about where does it end for them. Not all clients are like that, but I’ve encountered enough of them.
Some points where you can & should train your clients:
– Do insist them to do their homework on the requirements.
– Do tell them when something is not possible in an unreasonable timeframe.
– Do not rush to have a meeting with the customer.
– If they are rude to your employee while communicating, please make it a point to tell the customer to be polite.
– Do explain them why something takes time – whether it’s a requirement or a refund. Sometimes clients ask me why should a refund take 2 days. I have to tell them that Paypal users from India are not allowed to keep any funds in their Paypal accounts for more than 24 hours. Every 24 hours, a withdrawal is automatically initiated to our bank account. So when I sell a $199 product that a client wants to be refunded for, I can only refund when my Paypal account has balance worth that amount. Which means, I need to have sales worth $199 before the automatic withdrawal is initiated.
If there are any more to add, and I am sure there are quite a few, do let me know.
Usually we accept everything or most of the things a customer has to say out of “fear” of loosing business. But the fact is, that if you take such a client’s project where you say “yes” to everything they ask for, then you’re creating an unhappy situation for your employees & also perhaps an unsatisfied client.
Many of the above points are already mentioned in the presentation of “Professional WordPress” by Chris Lema delivered at WordCamp Europe 2014. His presentation is not much about WordPress. It’s about being professional, delegating, employee support, client training. It is something that applies to any technology, any platform.
The video is available here on Youtube.