Customers will always be your wild cards!
You’re an expert in your field, and your knowledge and experience is why your customers are there. However, the unknown variable that every business has to deal with is the personalities of their customers. When you add a customer to your portfolio, you should be taking into account their business needs as well as their personal ones.
In smaller businesses in particular, customers usually expect to get a unique, personalized experience based on their needs. In turn, you as a service provider need to be agile enough to adjust your work and communication styles to what will make the customer succeed!
The trick is knowing how to effectively communicate with each of your customers to reach the optimal goal. As in any interaction, knowing who you're talking to will determine how you decide to approach the conversation.
These are the 5 most common Customer Types:
The controlling customer - This customer can be incredibly intimidating, usually very demanding, and more often than not, will try to micromanage every aspect of your work. They know exactly what they want to do and how they want it done; however, their decisions are usually based on their experience and knowledge and not necessarily on the ultimate way to success. The question here is how to get them to shift strategies when they are not willing to listen.
The indecisive customer - This customer is usually very polite and continuously asks questions, makes comparisons, and takes time to research every aspect of the project before moving forward. They know what their ultimate goal is but don’t really have an opinion on how they’d like to go about achieving their goals. This usually spans for the customer’s fear of making a mistake. Although this type of customer is harmless and often enjoyable to engage with, the question becomes how to make sure your work together is productive while also giving the customer the support needed for them to feel comfortable in their decision making process.
The enthusiastic customer - This is my favorite type of customer! They are incredibly motivated to start doing the work and are filled with ideas, while at the same time also open to hearing other ideas that they haven’t considered. Brainstorming with this customer is usually very enjoyable for both sides and the decisions made are usually a combination of ideas from all parties. That being said, due to their high level of enthusiasm and drive to get things done, this type of customer tends to be draining and rather needy of your time. They expect you to be available to them at all times and tend to be a bit demanding of your attention. Setting expectations and arming them with all the information they need to get things done on their end is crucial for your productivity.
The overwhelmed customer- This customer is the customer who feels like they need you the most. They are lacking in resources, background, skills, or experience in the service(s) that you're providing. They are looking for you to do the work for them, rather than consult and help guide them to make their own decisions. Getting time on the calendars can be a challenge, and their slow response time will usually cause delays in your work timelines. Small changes to your project management style, along with learning to balance between the customers’ schedule and your needs, is key!
The disappearing customer - You’re not really sure why this customer took on your services. The money (or part of it) is coming through, but they aren’t really showing an interest in the project and/or interacting with you. These customers are dangerous in nature because one day they will wake up and notice that they paid you money but didn’t get anything in return. And it won’t matter that you tried to email them 50 times or called them 100 more. You need to work to catch their attention and understand the reasoning behind their disappearance before trying to move forward with the service you were hired to provide.
Remember: It is your role to manage the effectiveness of your working relationship to the point where the customer gets what they need to be successful. Making a customer happy has no importance if their business is not successful. So focus on success and business results!