When I take on a new project, I tend to take the tack of “I’m going to give you a good website, whether you like it or not.” This usually happens when the client can’t really articulate his needs anyway, and my team is pretty much expected to take control and make everything look good. (Ok, it’s probably also symptomatic of the journalist in me for whom “client” is still a nasty word.)
However, a recent trip to a new hair stylist has had me evaluating client relationships and questioning my methodology. On a friend’s recommendation, I landed at the mercy of Sally*, who explained to me that her job was to give me the best haircut for my face, but she wanted to hear my perspective first. Here’s a sampling of our exchange:
Me: I really love having bangs and a middle part; I never gotten so many compliments. This is the haircut I want.
Sally: That’s gonna draw attention right to the center of your face. You have a big nose.
Despite my feeble protests, Sally gave me the haircut that she wanted. I admit that it looks good, but it looks anchorwoman good; I can see that it’s flattering, but it’s not a reflection of my personality. Plus, I feel bullied into acquiescing to her scissors. I vacillate between complacency and tears, and I feel that there’s no way that I can return to Sally’s salon.
I’m left to marvel at Sally’s client relationship techniques. She’s willing to bank on her results speaking for themselves, which is not so different from my approach to Web strategy. Still, the key is how you get there. Genuinely hearing out other ideas and taking the time to work out mutually agreeable solutions can do wonders for a client’s ultimate satisfaction, and the final result will certainly be more Frédéric Fekkai than Supercuts.