Is the Client Always Right?

I recently heard someone make an intriguing comment about client service.

He said, “There is only one person who can define the ideal client service model: the client.”

In many ways that sounds right. We should view things through the eyes of our clients. The client should be the arbiter of what’s truly valuable, right?

As much as I respect the wisdom of this person, there are two reasons I don’t completely agree with his statement.

While the client can certainly provide his perspective on what’s valuable, he doesn’t have insight into what’s profitable for the business. For example, I’m sure that many people would like gas station attendants to fill their cars’ tanks on cold winter days. But good luck trying to find a full-service station in town!

The second reason I disagree with the comment is that people (myself included) don’t always act in their own self-interest.

For example, if my dentist asked me for my preferred exam schedule, I’d probably request once every two or three years. While I don’t have dental phobia, it’s definitely not my favorite thing to do, particularly during a busy work week.

So how do you strike the right balance between what your client prefers and what is best for them (and for you)? It’s all about communication.

Start with your recommendation and rationale, present it to the client and then ask for their feedback.

Here’s an example:

“My recommendation for clients who are about five years away from retirement is to meet twice a year – once in-person and once virtually. I believe (and my clients agree) that twice-a-year meetings is the best rhythm to make progress towards their retirement goals. Does that work for you?”

Your clients have hired you for your expertise, so they want your recommendation on what’s best for them. Be willing to share that, and then listen to what they want.

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