Think big. Be different.

Why Your Client Should Only Be 90% Satisfied

By Garrett Moon on September 9, 2013 in News.

“Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed!”

That’s not a bad line when you’re selling a tangible item like a car or a grapefruit, but what about your design? Or, frankly, any professional service? Client satisfaction isn’t what you think it is.

When it comes to professional services, the customer isn’t always right.

It is difficult to accept this truth as a designer, writer, developer, or just about any position, really. Do you know what to do when you get the list of dreaded changes?

What Your Clients Really Want

Here’s the thing. Your client is just as nervous as you are in the sales room. They are afraid of screwing things up and making bad decisions.

What if they approve the wrong homepage design?

What if their boss doesn’t like the final product?

What if you turn out to be a bozo and blow their budget?

They’re nervous, and so are you. In the salesroom, however, the” winner” will be the one who can see, understand, and work with that fear by using it to their advantage.

By simply acknowledging this fear, we begin to unlock a truly exciting secret of sales and project management: the client/service professional relationship is not one of function, but one of trust. They didn’t hire you because they needed a website, they hired you because they trust you to give them what they need. And trust is where most of us find our fatal flaw.

Is the client happy?

Most of us believe that the number one gauge of our client’s satisfaction is their happiness, but this approach is wrong. It is why we simply “make the logo bigger” because it is easy to believe that following orders will lead to client happiness. In reality, happiness isn’t what your clients are really after.

Your clients are actually after a great product.

When you make verbatim changes based on client feedback, you may be trading temporary happiness for long term success. Sure, the logo will be bigger, but will the product be any better? By following orders, you may be falling short.

What They Really Mean

So, what does it really mean when a client asks for a bigger logo, or any other insignificant change? It means that they don’t trust you quite yet. They don’t believe that you have made the best decision on their behalf. In this moment, it becomes important for you to discuss your approach, your reasoning, your shortcoming, and your theories.

It is time for you to be the professional in the relationship. This isn’t a slam on your clients, but it is an exultation of your skills.

When clients believe that they have left their project to a qualified professional, they are much less likely to make small changes. When they feel uncomfortable with the relationship, they will feel a greater need to try and control the situation.

As the service provider, your job is to instill that trust. You need to be the qualified professional.

You Must Be A Qualified Professional

What do I mean when I say “qualified professional?” To be a professional at something, you should be drawing the majority of your income from that trade. I don’t consider something you do on a part-time basis to be a professional skill. As Malcolm Gladwell has clearly taught us, expertise requires 10,000 hours of practice. Time in the saddle matters, and my advice here only applies to actual professionals.

A professional is a subject matter expert. That expertise is what you’re selling; it’s what the client trusts.

If you want this 90% idea to work, you must be a bonafide expert at what you do.

Everything As A Product

I always get nervous about the word “services.” At Todaymade, I even see our client work as an actual product. To me, the word service implies a vendor, which implies an entity that takes orders from a customer.

This isn’t what you or your customers want. Services can translate easily into “making the client happy.”

A product, on the other hand, implies a well-thought-out and considered object or tool. Expertise and love went in, and the best possible result should have come out. This leads to a great product.

Great products lead to satisfied customers. Satisfied customers will give you their trust.

The 90% Satisfaction Guarantee

Here’s a challenge. The next time your client sends over changes, shoot for only 90% satisfaction. Don’t make their changes verbatim. Start by hearing them out, and talk through the changes. Listen to what they are really saying, and always defend your approach with an intelligent comment.

Let them know that you will think through the suggestion and come up with a good final solution. Don’t promise 100%. Promise that you will do what’s best for the final product. Then, consider their feedback, along with what you know to be true, and then make the best decision on their behalf. It is your fiduciary responsibility.

This is the 90% percent rule. As a professional, we only use a portion of the feedback we receive. We always accept the feedback, but we also view it through the lens of what we have learned throughout our career. Our solutions are well-informed based on our expertise.

Prove this process to your client, and you will gain their trust. You may actually be surprised at how much they appreciate your willingness to buck the trend.

The Caveat

Of course, the 90% rule doesn’t work 100% of the time. There is one exception. All changes, by you, or by the client, must work to make a better product in the end. If they don’t, the 90% rule will never work.

Egos, emotions, and irrelevant preferences will always exist in every project. As the expert, it will be your job to work through it in a diplomatic way. By constantly bringing things back to the quality of the product, most clients will prefer to see things your way. They will see that you are on their side. They will see a great product in the works.

And after all, a great product is all they wanted in the first place.