No, the Client isn’t Always Right

Now, don't get me wrong – I love customers and always want them delighted as they walk away from our interactions. But that doesn't make me a “yes” man and it certainly doesn't make them right all the time.

Here's what I know – my clients often value when I push back because a) they trust me, and b) they know I'm only doing it because I have their own interests at heart.

Do you Say No to your Clients?

By now you know I say no a lot, right? You know you should too, right?

But to be clear, I'm not suggesting you're disagreeable. I'm not giving you freedom to be a jerk.

Instead, I'm simply saying that you should learn to do three things that are critical.

The first is to develop some consistent experience.

Whenever you disagree, you want it to come from data, evidence, and experience. Not just opinion. So spend some time doing the same things a few times, until you've seen the wide variety of nuances.

It can be vertical experience (like working on hotel web sites, working with personal trainers, or some other business area where you learn the nuances of that business).

It can be horizontal experience (like shopping cart abandonment). The lessons you learn will transfer domains faster than you imagine.

The second is to converse about goals.

Be clear, in your dialogue with a customer, about what constitutes success. Rarely have I heard that a slider is part of the definition. Focus  on your “what” and not the “how.”

It is really easy to let people's preferences (or your own) dictate details before you have a broader and bigger picture definition about what success will look like.

So have that conversation.

The third is to prepare them for your/their roles.

They're the subject matter expert of their own domain. They may know hair, massage, cars, trainers, or another field. You expect them to know that field and to produce content for the site.

Just like you wouldn't write their content because they're the subject matter expert, you don't expect them to tell you how to design the site you're building.

Do this as early as possible. Don't wait until there's a problem (or this will look really confrontative). Managing expectations is a “starting” activity, not an “ending” one.

The client isn't always right

I want to be clear I'm not saying clients are always wrong, or don't know what they're talking about. I know many who do. Instead I'm simply suggesting that you value yourself as much as you value other professionals.

Your instincts on what's big, complex or expensive doesn't come from the last project you worked on. You look at every project on it's own. It's your experience that shapes how you see things.

When clients talk to me about sliders, I stop them, not because I want to be a jerk, but because their experience shapes how they see things. In this case, their experience is often limited – which makes their opinions shaped by limited exposure to great stuff.

So when I disagree, I also educate, so that they're getting smarter over time.

It's time we educate

In the long run, I've never had a client who defined success as a slider on the home page. But I've had tons tell me they want one. I've had to be the one educating them.

I'd like to welcome you to the mission of educating customers and helping them reach their real goals, not their superficial ones (as they try to become web developers).