Whether you work as a freelance software consultant or run a full-fledged software consulting company, there’s likely one thing on your mind on a daily basis: keeping customers happy. Your business revenue, your reputation, and even your sense of well-being depend on how happy you can keep your customers. If your clients are happy, then you’re going to be happy.
Of course, just because you make happy clients a top priority doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to accomplish this kind of feat. So let’s look at some ways you can start to see things from the customer’s perspective, learn what they need to be happy, and come up with creative solutions for meeting those needs.
1. Think about things from the client perspective. Yes, you’re good at what you do. You think hard about solutions for your clients. You know software, you know information technology, and you’re quick to diagnose customer problems with a customized software solution.
That’s all well and good, but what you really need to do is bring that same level of expertise to a new perspective: the perspective of your customer. It’s not about what it takes to make the consultant happy; it’s about meeting a client’s goals. So set aside a few minutes for each project and try to view things from their angle. What would you want if you were in their position? Take a few notes and start the project with a fresh perspective.
2. Keep your billing simple and upfront. The less surprises you offer your clients in the area of billing, the better. Do your best not only to keep track of everything you do (so you can answer their concerns if they confront you with them), but to give an honest assessment of what you’ll charge upfront.
Yes, you can keep customers happy by dropping your prices, but we should give you one word of warning about this: sometimes, keeping your business afloat is more important than keeping your customers happy.
3. Let the client feel they have input. We know – everyone’s an expert. Your client has a thousand different requirements for you, and all you can think is, “if you know everything, why did you even hire me?”
There’s a line to be straddled here. On one hand, you want to keep true to the client’s requests and keep them happy with the process. On the other hand, you don’t want to let the client run the project entirely. So what do you do?
Find the happy medium. Make the small tweaks your client requests, or even be willing to oblige them – but keep hitting the milestones that you said you would hit anyway. If they request big changes to the project, make sure that the initial project agreement you signed (you’re doing that, right?) is available to show them. They might not be happy, but if a customer is resolved never to be happy with the work you’ve provided, sometimes all you can do is…the best you can.
James Cofflin is a marketing strategist for Arcisphere Technologies. The Software Lifecycle Pros simplify the agile software development process by providing consulting, training, and staffing for the IBM Rational product line. agile software development