That’s my personal modification of a brilliant quote by Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach, who said, “You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” And it’s equally brilliant when applied to working with clients.
The least happy client demands the most attention, pulling your time away from other clients, and generally making you tense. Further, if you’ve got staff, it spreads. In 20 plus years of running an event company, every time, with no exceptions, a crotchety client became a cancer in the office. Whoever was the lead account executive on that project would get incredibly stressed out, and the rest of the team (myself included) would lose productive time on their own clients having to calm her down and lend support. Pretty soon, nobody’s happy. The only benefit to the others was the perspective it gave them, the “thank god I don’t have to work with Lisa’s client!” comments.
And sometimes it wasn’t even that the client was nasty; sometimes they were sweet as pie, but just frustrated because their expectations did not synch with ours in terms of client service levels, deadlines, availability of our team, etc.
So what’s the solution? Make your client’s happiness more important than the event’s success. Here’s how:
1. Understand that those are two completely different things. It’s possible to have a successful event and still lose a client, but it’s very rare to lose a satisfied client, even if the event goes south.
2. Realize what will make your client happy, because it differs dramatically. Some want you to take the lead and plow ahead, others want you to run every thing by them first. Some are militant about sticking to budgets, others want to be told of great upgrade ideas regardless of cost. The point is, make it your top priority to learn how your client wants to work with you.
3. Religiously take your client’s temperature, not just on how the event planning is going, but on how they find the process of working with you. Whatever feedback they may have, get it as early as possible so you have time to correct it.
Making your client’s happiness more important than the event’s success is a whole mindset shift. When was the last time you were at an industry event and heard someone rave about how well they serviced a client? But it’s what’s required to be successful in business. And if need be, do it for selfish reasons. The happier your clients are the happier you’ll be.