At this month’s second MEG meetup, held in Colony, Piccadilly Place, we looked at what it means to go above and beyond when working for clients, and whether this is necessarily always a good thing.
Beyond a Base Standard
What if you are in an industry where grade A is the base standard, if a certain level of quality is the established norm?
What can you then do that will delight your clients?
This raises the whole issue of working above your paygrade – something that is more complex if it’s your own business.
There is also the question of intervention. If you can see where your client is going wrong, but it is not strictly within your remit, what steps, if any, should you take?
Ultimately, you might be in a position to influence them, but you cannot direct them to act. Sometimes they may not understand the significance of what you’re doing for them.
Managing Expectations and Resources
The challenge is to manage the client’s expectations and to manage your own resources.
One solution might be to build more into what you offer without stating it up front, contractually.
This way you appear to exceed expectations, while in fact you’ve already budgeted for these elements.
This doesn’t necessarily overcome the issue where what the best thing to do, and keeping your client happy, diverge. You may still need to make hard choices.
One factor which can make this easier is knowing your client as well as you can. This can then help you measure your own level of service.
Containing Scope Creep
Can a sense of personal commitment to a client make you too generous in spirit, leading to scope creep?
Otherwise known as kitchen sink syndrome, this is where the client keeps asking to add things to a project, until it is bent out of shape, with no clearly defined borders.
A solution to this is to productise your activity. This is where you make your services more systematic, so that you have demonstrable processes which are chargeable. This doesn’t mean you have to bill by the hour. You can package these services too.
If a client understands that there will be a cost attached to any extras they throw into the mix, it can help keep their focus on the core project.
Should Any Work be Speculative?
In certain sectors and professions, speculative work has become, for better or worse, a part of the culture.
This is true for architects and other creative industries, for example.
It may feel like a pressure for businesses early in their growth cycle to offer more speculative work in the hope of growing their customer base and their reputation.
However, the risk is that you sell yourself well short of your true worth, and also that you devalue the work of your peers.
Often, it can feel like walking a tightrope between winning work, at whatever the cost, and building your brand.
It is a critical mix of tangible and intangible benefits.
Adding Value Through Good Intent
Much of this comes down to relationship-building and developing good customer service practices.
Openness and maintaining a front-facing dialogue help build healthy relationships with clients.
The more you get to know them, and they get to know you, the better you can help them without getting into complicated territory.
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