“Why are we still finding issues with our numbers?! It’s been three months since we started this process!” my client demanded.
He was right.
We were STILL finding issues with the numbers. It was futile to mention all the things we had already fixed, or explain to him that when you fix some things, other things come to the forefront as being broken. We were confident in the progress but could understand his frustration.
I raised an eyebrow and thought, “I’m sorry Mr. Client, I forgot my magic wand at home.”
I explained to him that I wish that everything could be fixed in month one, but that would require some sort of magic– or a tremendous amount of money– neither of which we had. It also meant that we were working through a PROCESS and fine tuning numbers requires time. Unfortunately, things have to happen in sequence.
But it got me thinking… even if I could get everything fixed in month one, he didn’t have the mental bandwidth to absorb it. If you are a professional service provider, you know what I mean. There is often a disconnect between your client’s expectations, the timeline in which it can be done, AND their ability to understand what you are trying to do.
You can’t jump from novice to expert status in a short period of time. Why do we expect our clients to do the same?
I’ll use myself as an example. I recently attended a marketing conference where there was a lot of talk about A-B testing. I wanted to do it, except I didn’t even have an “A” to test. I didn’t have the baseline understanding of “A” to warrant the advanced analytics they were discussing to even test a “B” (yet.) If I engaged someone to do A-B testing for me it would have been a total waste of money– I’m not ready for it.
The same goes for all of us professional service providers and our clients. You have to walk them through a process, step by step. If you get ahead of them they get lost, if you go too slow they get frustrated. That’s why it’s a good idea to let clients know what it’s like before your engagement starts. Tell them it might be slow, it might be painful, and it will require their time and dedication to ensure success and that they need to trust in the process.
So if you are a professional service provider, what problem would your “magic wand” solve? How do you get your clients to follow the process?