Simply satisfying our clients is not enough. We want them to enjoy working with us and feel good about the experience. We want them to know we are invested in their success. It starts with our first interaction and includes every interaction afterwards.
There are a variety of strategies out there for improving the client experience. While working with clients for three decades, I’ve found the best results come when it feels like I am on their team – not “my team” or even “our team.” The pronoun matters here.
What does that look like?
Here are a few key characteristics that you’re on their team:
- Really understand their needs.
This extends well beyond the scope of a project. When you are a part of a team, you understand the organization, its needs, its culture, the team dynamics and the other details that make it what it is. In a traditional or typical client-provider relationship, the knowledge is surface-level. It’s what anyone can see from the outside. The shift comes when we you see them from the inside.
- Act in their best interests.
This sounds simple and straightforward. But we’re human and naturally gravitate to our own interests. Getting this right requires us to listen well and act with intention in every interaction – even if it takes something off our plate. A client once suggested they close a wing in the building because it was too distant and then add space onto the building that felt more convenient. We proposed adding a central stair to bring the remote space “closer.” They listened because they know we have their best interests in mind. They avoided a costly addition and created a greater sense of connection and community in their existing building.
- Initiate from within.
It takes a full commitment to your client’s success to help them see new possibilities and be positioned to move a new concept forward. In my work, that has meant doing the research and work to validate a concept and then bringing it forward. In one case, a client proposed a one-story addition. After reviewing their goals and studying the building, we suggested a two-story addition that would connect two separate two-story wings of the building on the second floor. It’s our role on the team to offer new perspectives – that may even challenge their assumptions or initial ideas. The goal is always to make the client look good.
- Share their passion.
Understanding what a client wants to achieve or where they want to go is important. But it’s when we share their passion for the work – and the outcome – that we can perform even better work. That’s one of the reasons why I have devoted much of my career to education, both K-12 school and colleges. I enjoy the work, but it’s what’s happening inside the buildings that really motivates me.
I know we are hitting the high client experience mark when we’re working on a project and the client’s team members consider us to be their co-workers – not simply an outside consultant or vendor. They see that we are invested, we have a deep knowledge of their organization and we act with their best interests in mind.