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Dealing with difficult customers

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Tell us what you think about handling difficult customers with decorum, as featured in this week's Project Management Blueprint newsletter. What problems do you commonly face with difficult clients? How do you respond to these types of clients? Whendo you respond, do you usually see a marked improvement in the client's attitude?

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Learn to Check Your Ego at the Door

by mnieber2 In reply to Dealing with difficult cu ...

Great article and solid advice!

Let me add that it is not only customers that display these challenging behaviours. I see the same things in my own project team members, and unless they report directly to me, it is equally challenging.

One additional piece of advice that I would add is that in order for a PM to effectively handle these behaviours, we must learn how to control our own egos. This was the number one lesson I learned from my career as a consultant. And it has resulted in me becoming a much better manager of both people and process.

Food for thought.

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One more difficult client type

by Andy_D In reply to Dealing with difficult cu ...

I would like to add one more client type: The Non-Believer.
Definition: The Non-Believer is a client that doesn't recognize the value of project management and see it only as an extra cost. In their view project managers get in the way of being able to deliver a project successfully at a little a cost as possible.
How to Respond: There is no real response, except to continually display your professionalism a length, providing 'hand-holding' as necessary to show tangible examples of the value-add project management has on a project. In many instances, delivering a successful project will only support their call for no project management. Only when a project goes off the rails, after having no formal project management applied, will theNon-Believer start recognizing that there may be some value to project management after all.

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cash conversion

by Patrick Andrews In reply to One more difficult client ...

The only way to get the value of PM across is to amass data over time about the money it saves/creates. Once the argument is made....keep gathering the data. Often resistance is down to laziness, so I agree that doing a professional job on behalf ofthis client type may help in 'converting' them.

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Culture

by Todd Williams In reply to Dealing with difficult cu ...

You should add culture to this. Not just corporate culture but also ethnic culture.

Some business' cultural environment is to be difficult, the aforementioned "negotiator". Their idea is to wear down the delivery team and get them to throw in more than was originally specified in the contract. Working with this takes a patient but tenacious manager. There is a tendency of the manager to isolate the team from the customer to keep morale up, which works in only the rarest of cases. This strategy removes the damage caused by the difficult working conditions, but also adds huge risk through lack of communication. Sticking to one's guns is often the best approach. Although the problem will continue, "giving in" grossly exacerbates the problem. The key is a team that understands and can deal with the negativism.

Often this is manifested in a "good cop/bad cop" atmosphere. These are easier to handle once identified. It is often best to deal back with the same medicine, but again beingmeticulous, patient and tenacious is your best friend.

In some cultures the act of negotiation is a given. As depicted in many comedies (i.e. "Life of Brian"), everything in the day is negotiated for. No one ever pays "sticker price". If you do not negotiate you are not "sincere" about doing business. Although a project must stay profitable, there is a fine art in this part of the manager?s job. You can?t always win and you can't always lose. You may offer one or two changes to the customer for free but the next will cost. Usually it is understood that price of the latter will make up for the losses on the former. But both can report back wins to their management. This "shell game" is a staple of business in many cultures and, once the art is learned, it can be an excellent method of expanding your business and holding a valued customer.

Todd C. Williams
http://home.pacifier.com/~toddwill

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