Is Under-Promising the Best Strategy With Architectural Clients?
It’s a story that we’re all too familiar with: a client asks to have a task delivered by a certain date and time, and you simply say yes because it seems like good customer service to follow what the client requests.
Is this always the best strategy though? Is there a way to differentiate your business by under-promising and not telling the client exactly what they want to hear?
Think of it this way: a client comes in and asks for a design or report on their desk in two days, and you, regardless of the situation, tell them you will send them the documentation right when they requested. After all, when the client asks, the client receives, right? The only problem is you may not have the time or resources to complete this task by that time.
If you miss the deadline and push it off to the following day or even later, you run the risk of truly ticking off your client. They might have funds tied up or they may need the design or report to move forward with their upcoming plans. If the client makes plans based on your promises, they expect the promises to be fulfilled.
It happens all the time, where a company tells a client they will have a job completed by a certain time, but things get in the way. Is this acceptable? Should we all just write this off as part of business or learn from it to improve?
What if you took a different approach and went against the masses of people and companies who simply try to meet all the client demands? If you under-promise, the client may not like you at the moment, but when you deliver the task a day or two early, or at least on-time, the client sees it as a success. You were open and honest about the situation and showed them that you were true to your word.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons under-promising and over-delivering might turn out to be the best strategy.
Honesty Always Wins
It hurts to tell a paying client what they don’t want to hear. Who knows? You may even lose the client or taint the relationship if you come back and say that you need more time to complete a task. Keep in mind that remaining transparent and honest about your capabilities is most often the wisest choice.
In reality, it doesn’t take much guts to tell the client, “Yup! I’ll have that to you exactly when you want it.” Everyone does this, and they all run the risk of under-delivering. When you muster up the courage to say “No,” or “I’ll get back to you,” or “I’m not sure if that’s possible right now,” you may initially jar the client, or frustrate them, but it gives them time to plan around the change. Not only that, but they see you as a trusting and reliable source, since you take your time and maintain clarity throughout the process.
Yes, it sounds cliche, but your honesty can carry you a long way when it comes to working with clients. After all, clients are just people who are looking to work alongside other people who they can trust. A well-developed business plan that includes honesty as a differentiation trait might potentially stand out in the sea of companies and individuals who bend to every client demand.
Think About the Quality of Your Project Upon Delivery
Telling a client that you plan on having something done by their requested deadline leaves no room to amaze the client. They simply expect you to deliver in time and with the same quality that you always show. The only problem is that you might not have the time needed to deliver that quality, even if you can squeeze it out within the given time frame.
Under-promising may not initially sit well with a client, but it gives you time to come back with the quality to make up for it. Use the extra time to show how detailed and resourceful you can be. Not to mention, it allows for you to really take pride in your work instead of bending to the demands of every client.
An Honest Reputation is the Best Reputation
Let’s say you develop a reputation for always under-promising and over-delivering. You are honest about the deadlines your can meet and even push back against your clients when they are trying to force a fast deadline on you. This reputation holds some solid weight down the line. Why? Because when a true emergency comes along and you can’t deliver on-time, the client might actually give you some leeway because of your past performance. They know that you have a reputation for over-delivering, so it must be a severe circumstance that won’t ever happen again.
Obviously you want to make your work as perfect as possible, but mistakes and oversights are always going to happen. If a client knows you as a person who always under-delivers, they are more likely to look at every piece of work you turn in with a microscope. Mistakes aren’t forgiven and every slip-up sends you a little closer to a point where the client goes running for a competitor.
When you develop a reputation for over-delivering, some clients might actually overlook mistakes because they know you are a trustworthy person. If they notice mistakes or need something modified, the communication process becomes a little easier because you have an honest relationship. It’s certainly better than listening to a client yell at you with every little mistake because they are growing more and more weary of your performance.
What About Forceful Clients?
This is a tricky situation, because a paying client puts food on the table, regardless of how forceful they are. The easy answer to this is to under-promise and over-deliver, then if the client doesn’t like that, get rid of them. Although this might work for some people, just throwing away a client sounds crazy to others.
Well, we are open to any suggestions below, but in our view, it’s still important to under-promise and over-deliver. However, we want to keep the client around, even if they are a tad pushy. So how do we do that? It all starts with the initial contact during the relationship. If the client gets a sense that you are ready to deliver tasks and finish projects based on their rapid timeline, you have already lost the battle.
For example, if you perform a task to reel in the client and deliver it the next day as they requested, they will always expect this kind of treatment. Expect to get walked-over throughout the remainder of your relationship. Then, once you miss a single deadline they will jump on you and act like it is the worst offense in the world. It’s all about expectations and managing them from the start.
Yes, you will encounter forceful clients, but sometimes they just need a little push-back during the initial stages to help them understand that they are receiving great service, but you are the one that knows how quickly you can deliver your work.
Let us know in the comments section how you handle client expectations. Do you find it easier to over-promise and then make clients even happier when you follow up by hitting deadlines and delivering high-quality work? Share your thoughts if you have any other solutions for the pushy client conundrum, and drop a line if you think there are benefits to catering to your clients’ stringent deadline requests.