Introduction\n\nThere is a popular (if not simplistic) phrase in business that I'm sure that most people have heard at some point. It states unequivocally and emphatically that:\n\nThe customer is always right.\n\nThis is an integral mantra in many facets of client-facing roles, such as sales and consultancy, where it is your job to please the client as best as possible to both keep and grow business opportunities, and the profits that should come along with this. However, throughout my years of working for numerous companies within different teams across a variety of different clients, I've found that the "always" portion of this saying to be wholly inaccurate, and that blindly accepting and (even worse) believing this statement can cause immense amounts of damage to work outputs, team morale and even client relations.\n\nLady lying on leaves thinking about working with appreciative clients\n\nA Healthy Relationship\n\nThe customer can MOST DEFINITELY be wrong, and it is up to you and your team of A-Listers to help steer them towards being correct and MOST IMPORTANTLY, manage their expectations of what is possible and what is fantasy 🧙♂️🧙♀️. Remember, if they were always right, they wouldn't be paying for your services, instead they'd be doing the job themselves! They have (supposedly) hired you for your skills, expertise and experience, and NOT for your ability to parrot the many synonyms of "yes" suggested by a thesaurus. It shouldn't be rocket science to give them precisely what they've asked for, and remember, this is actually what they want!\n\nBy maintaining this kind of relationship, you differentiate your organisation and team, whilst at the same time presenting a value-proposition that transcends the purely financial. Make no mistake, the client writes the cheques and foots the bill, but what do you think pleases your client more in the long-term when payment is due?\n\nSaying "Yes" to every little piece of scope creep creating packages of work which are almost impossible to complete efficiently with the agreed time and budget.\n\nConstantly being realistic, having those difficult conversations, referring back to all agreements made when the package of work was set up and ultimately delivering what they want.\n\nA strong client relationship leading to a handshake\n\nAs projects progress and more information becomes available and is understood, it is common for more work suggestions to arise that may have been previously overlooked. Your client is likely to gain a fuller picture in their mind of what they want as the project progress and they learn more. With this in mind, it is important that you keep the project realistic. You might feel that you are letting your client down by continually managing their expectations, but you aren't, far from it in fact. By keeping things within the realm of the possible, you are actually ensuring that they get what they ask for by the end of your contract period. On the flip-side, if you agree to every little itty-bitty piece of extra work, disguised as off-the-cuff "just this" and "just that" favours, it will all add up to a MAMMOTH task. This will require a lot of extra budget (that you likely haven't allocated) and ultimately lead to your project being hugely inefficient, and maybe even loss-making. The client will still expect the work and your relationship could become hugely strained or even break altogether.\n\nIn this case, your client was wrong to ask for extra work (on the existing agreement) and it is your job to manage this in the nicest, most-professional manner. Anything else and you are setting everyone up for a huge fall, which will ultimately affect productivity, relationships and morale of your team. You were all hired for your skills, so it is up to you use them effectively.\n\n"Interesting" Clients\n\nIrrespective of the belief that clients are always right, you must understand that not all clients are created equally. Make no mistake, bad clients exist and working for them is by no means a pleasant experience! Trust me when I say that you'll be very lucky to get anything positive from the work done, and you'll also likely struggle to keep team morale high.\n\nI have been blessed in that I've done work for some truly amazing people 😀. They agree the work, provide all the information and support you need to facilitate an excellent job, treat you like you know what you are talking about, listen to and rationally debate any points raised, outwardly appreciate the excellent work that you do, act professionally at all times, invite opportunities for improvements and foster a collaborative environment. You become a surrogate member of their team and they go out of their way to make you feel valued. These kind of organisations are an absolute joy to work for, and it is always highly competitive to get on such projects 🎉. I've even had the great fortune (and by no means is this an expectation, more like a lovely surprise) to have been invited to client Christmas 🌲🎅 meals and social events!\n\nGroup of people with a healthy working relationship\n\nOn the flip-side of this, bad clients don't act in this way AT ALL. They will demand the earth whilst driving your price down to zero and then berate you when you don't deliver under the impossible conditions THEY have created. They will try to agree a package of work with you with vague statements so they can squeeze more work out of the loose wording and use corporate wordplay gymnastics to guilt you into delivering more for less. They will change their mind constantly, meaning that you can never plan ahead or build upon previous work. They will overly disrespect and undermine you (at times in front of others), shout at you, and try to verbally beat you right down to get the work they want done despite what has been agreed. They will enjoy the fruits of your labour whilst NEVER giving you an encouraging word unless it used to get more out of you. To them, you unfortunately won't be people tasked for your skills to get the job done to an excellent standard 😔.\n\nThis indeed happens, and NONE of it is right, thus casting doubt on the old saying I mentioned earlier. Clients like this are difficult to work with, where it can feel like no matter what you complete, nothing you do is EVER good enough. They also can lead to the erosion of efficiency and productivity, as well as absolutely destroy morale. It can also make it difficult to retain a core team of driven people as well as find new people to work on such projects. Reputations are a hell of a thing as staff talk and word can spread around very quickly.\n\nEffective Leadership\n\nAll of this is why it is SO important that the client point of contact effectively and continually manages expectations, as well as behaviours otherwise projects can flounder. They must balance keeping the client happy so payments are made, as well as prioritise keeping the project team happy so turnover is as low as possible. Constantly finding and training replacements adds up very quickly, and the interim time can severely damage output, further denting morale and client relations. It actually pays to take this seriously.\n\nIt is always paramount that your needs of your clients are met, and many organisations have frameworks in place to ensure this, such as Key Perfornamce Indicators (KPIs), surveys, performance scorecards etc. However, like I've said a few times it is of paramount importance to effectively manage their expectations to stop projects from being derailed. It is also integral that you professionally and courteously push back on and not stand for ANY bad behaviour from clients. I'd recommend putting in place official processes so that teams can be supported centrally, as having to deal with "interesting" tactics alone can be highly stressful and isolating.\n\nLeadership taking the time to properly receive feedback so they can make improvements\n\nTo ensure that your team actually feels like their voice matters, put together a proper feedback process (e.g. Lessons Learned), ACTUALLY listen to what they have to say (no use of the corporate BS phrase "I hear you"), document any issues raised and FIX THEM whilst proving status updates. Don't rationalise away legitimate concerns with an official corporate statements and do nothing, as people will stop communicating and you will become out of touch. For my full thoughts on this, please have a read of my previous post linked below. By actually listening and taking feedback, every positive change you make should help boost morale and help your projects to flourish 😀🥳.\n\nHearing Without Actually Listening\n\nA Beautiful Relationship\n\nIt is quite simplistic to say that anyone is "always right", and to act in such a way can lead to the overlooking of very serious and legitimate concerns. No one is perfect, including your clients and this is why they have procured your services in the first place. It is vital that expectations are realistic and accurate throughout any package of work to ensure that all parties know where they stand. Many clients will be AWESOME 🎉, and over time will treat you like an extended member of their family. Unfortunately, some clients may exhibit "interesting" behaviours and it is up to you to effectively deal with them to ensure that a healthy, happy relationship is cultivated. By understanding all of this, you can provide a fantastic environment where projects can thrive, your clients are happy and they get they asked for 😄.\n\nTake care and all the best. Si.