Consulting Consultants: Resolving Perception Issues

Nothing is worse than a bad first impression.  When you first arrive at a client and something happens immediately ends in them having a bad perception of you.  Maybe you were you taking a 10 minute break to look at a non-work related website, or you were caught writing a blog post because you didn’t want to forget the thought process, or maybe you had to take some time off right after you landed at the client (this one actually happened to me, I got sick 3 days after being boarded on at new client).  Whether intentional or not, a bad perception of you was set.  The client doesn’t have a ton of respect for you and your work is unfairly scrutinized, even if no error was found in said code.

What do you do?  Well there are two ways to handle this.  The easiest way is to bow out gracefully from the client.  Simply state to them how you can understand why they don’t trust you and that in order for them to get the project done in a manner they would like it might be a good idea for you to leave once a replacement can be obtained.  If you work for a consulting firm, see if they will back-fill the position at the client.  This shows that you have the client’s best interest at heart and it might make them reconsider their opinion of you.  If not, ensuring the client has someone they enjoy working with is major part of client satisfaction.

The other, more difficult option is to stick it out at the client.  Prove to them daily that their initial impression of you was a false one.  You can also converse with your client to find out where the problem is.  If you continue to deliver high quality work, your previous infractions will begin to fade from their minds.  The key her is to hyper-communicate, deliver quality work (both regularly and on time), and to ensure the client is aware of any issues as early as possible.  You might have given them a wrong impression, the thing to do now is to show them that their impression was wrong.  Taking the following precautions can really help:

  • When you turn in work, ensure it’s your highest quality.  If you need extra time to deliver the best work you can, communicate this to the client.
  • Turn in any work on time.  When working to fix a perception issue, turning in work early can really help.  But again, make sure it’s quality work.  Do not rush to get something in ahead of schedule if it means cutting corners on quality.  This will do more harm than good in the long run.
  • Hyper-communicate any issues, potential issues, or project stalls.  Keeping the client informed helps them to see progress or lack of it (ie you’re waiting on someone else to finish a piece you need before moving on).  Make sure the client is always aware of where you are at on a project.
  • Keep non-client related work and web browsing to a minimum or do it during a lunch break, ensuring that the client knows you’re not on their time.  Reasonable clients know that you occasionally have to check a personal email account, or do something that’s not related to them, but do not bill to the client for these things if they end up taking considerable time.  Stay late if you have to.
  • Ensure the client is aware of any time you might be taking off as early as possible. 
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