How To Make Your Client Into Your Partner Instead Of Your Adversary --Written By : Alycen Vance Treloar
It’s happened to all of us at some point in our development career. In the middle of a project and you realize that you and the client are constantly butting heads instead of getting things done. It’s a frustrating situation and it can lead to bad feelings and a loss in productivity for you both. It can even cause the loss of the contract. Since neither of you want that (they hired you to get the job done, after all!), here are some tips for keeping that relationship healthy.
- Keep communications warm but professional. Too often developers are seen as code machines and not much more. We even foster a reputation for being inscrutable precedes us. But you can control your presentation and image with the client by opening up a little. It’s not necessary to overshare, but it’s helpful to let the client know that you're a human being and not a cold automaton. Find something you both like – dogs, skiing, basket weaving or whatever – and use that to build an empathetic relationship based on something non-technical.
- Take ownership of your frustrations before expressing them. Remember that "you" statements put people on the defensive. If delays by the client are causing delays on your side, it's fine to say you're frustrated with the delays. But frame it as something you and the client can both relate to instead of making it an accusation. "I'm sure we're both frustrated with how long this is taking," is far more effective than, "You aren't giving me what I need to get this job done on time". Treat it like a partnership and your client will often agree.
- Ask how you can better serve them. Many clients aren't technical. They're not supposed to be. Handling the complex technical details is what we are for! Ask them regularly how you can help them to help you. Most of the roadblocks you encounter aren't due to malice on the client’s part. Many clients just don't know how to get you what you need. Be patient and be kind. You may even teach them a thing or two to guide their decisions. The time spent doing so will pay off in the end.
Remember, being a rockstar coder isn’t just about producing great code, it’s about working well with others, and no one is more important to your project than the client. In the end, the whole project will go faster, smoother, and happier if you and your client feel you’re on the same side striving for a common goal.