I’m a client right now, which is an unusual situation for me. My work revolves around clients and client needs and good client service, but the clients are the people on the other side of the metaphorical table. I worry about them. They don’t worry about me.
Right now, Matt and I are working with an amazing architect who is thoughtfully and carefully bringing us through an unfamiliar process. I absolutely know as little about building a house as the clients I work with know about building a website.
As we navigate this process, I’m trying hard to be a good client. I don’t want to be one of the nightmare stories that our poor architect is telling her friends over cocktails and rolling eyes about. I’ve tried to come up with a list of things that make a good client, but I can really only think of one.
Seriously, that’s it. Everything I can think of boils down to good manners. Return phone calls promptly. Say please and thank you. Have respect for other people’s time. Have respect for other people’s ideas. Wait your turn. Treat other people the way you’d like to be treated.
Most professional relationships are power-related. If you’re the boss, you have the upper hand. If you’re the client, you have the upper hand. If you’re paying someone else to do something, you have the upper hand. And when you have the upper hand, that’s when I think the good manners start to slip. You don’t have to say thank you or show up on time for a meeting, so maybe you don’t. That’s a slippery slope, and soon your whole relationship is compromised.
Being polite, to people above and below you on the metaphorical power ladder, is actually really easy. We all know the rules. We’ve known them since we could talk. “Say please” may be the only rule I can think of that all parents can agree on. Every relationship and every interaction will be more successful if we follow the same very basic rules that we teach our toddlers.
One the client side, I’m trying to be a good one. Back in my work life, I can’t say “be nice” to the people who may someday be my clients, but the best ones probably don’t need to be told. Here’s hoping for a whole pack of those.