Client management is something anyone who owns an AEC firm should be concerned about. After all, if you don’t do it effectively, not only will your projects probably turn out poorly, but your firm won’t perform well financially, you’ll have more stress, and it will be difficult to ever successfully exit from the enterprise when you decide to do so.
So what are some keys to effective client management? Here are my thoughts:
- You have to be organized effectively for it to work. If you are set up so that multiple principals and project teams are all working for the same client, and no one person is in charge of the overall client relationship, you’ve got a problem. There probably won’t be good coordination on fees, standards, priorities, and other matters that affect your overall client relationship, either. The organizational structure has to be set up so that one person has the overall responsibility for a specific client organization.
- You can’t let just anyone be a principal-in-charge or PM for any specific client. You have to match up the skills and personalities of your people with the people you deal with at your client’s end. Some people simply won’t be oriented properly or won’t be compatible. You don’t need to be a genius to see that.
- You have to be careful not to impose YOUR values on the client. Maybe economy of operation is like a religion to you, but not necessarily to your client who is only concerned about the lowest initial cost. Or maybe you are a staunch conservative politically who can’t stop talking about politics and your client is politically liberal but doesn’t share his or her views publicly. Politics – and assumptions made about other people and where they stand – is a huge problem today. There are many other examples but the bottom line is you need to be sure you understand your client’s values and serve them accordingly.
- You have to understand that accessibility is a BIG area of concern for clients. To manage a client relationship you have to be reachable by the client. If they cannot get ahold of you when they need you they will go somewhere else, plain and simple. That means you have to answer your phone and respond to texts and email messages – quickly and at night and during weekends if necessary.
- You have to be proactive. That means you don’t wait to call a client until there’s a new project. You call them when you have no agenda, just to show interest. It means they don’t always call you – you “reach out” to them (a phrase that is now so overused it drives me mad!).
- You have to care. You have to give love to get love. Sometimes you have to do favors for people whom you want to do favors for you. You have to show the client that you are in it for the long haul – not just to maximize your income on each and every project you do for them.
I could go on but am out of time. I need to call some clients today to check in on them!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.