In this post, I am going to provide all the content I give to my students about client management.
For the last couple of years, I have been educating students to be a user experience designer. However, one big thing was missing from my course, explaining to students how to communicate with their clients. To better illustrate my tips and tricks about client management, I took the example of running usability testing. However my article can also relate to other types of research or design activities.
3 types of clients
Firstly, it is important to understand that your clients see the world in a different way.
I have identified three types of clients, I assume that all these types have interest in user research and that a client is a group of people within an organisation:
Type 1: the client has no idea what usability testing is and you are pushing them to do it. This type of client had no exposure to usability testing before and they are in the dark. This is when you are showing off your knowledge, your job is to be an educator and a practitioner. Expect to be questioned at the start and halfway during your engagement with them.
Type 2: the client is aware of what a usability test is, and sees value in it. This type of client is nice and easy, you will spend less time managing stakeholders. On the other hand, you will have more time to do extra activities to complement the project. For example; using eye tracking even if it wasn’t requested, or doing mobile testing on a tram instead of a room.
Type 3: the client believe they know what a usability test is, but in reality, they have no idea. Like with any client, your goal is first to understand if there is a disconnect between your thinking and their thinking, however in this case you might face a higher resistance to change their perception. Keep in mind that they have heard of usability testing, but it is likely to be different from what you know. Again, expect to be questioned often during your engagement with them.
A few examples of what can go wrong
Secondly, it is important to know what can go wrong, I guarantee you that you will have funny moments in any engagements. The key goal is to prevent these moments to happen. Here are a few examples of funny moments:
- The client wants to manage the recruitment all by themselves and have a poor experience in doing it
- The client challenges the approach because they think that your interview guide doesn’t reflect what they will get at the end of the test
- The client doesn’t like the way your final report will be presented, and they are not willing to pay for the changes
- The client doesn’t come back to you on time for feedback
- The client didn’t read properly what you have sent, but approved it.
Finally, there are some basics rules that can prevent the issues listed above:
- Start by listening and demonstrate that you have understood what your client told you
- Compromise and provide guidance along the way
- Never blame the client or yourself, look after solutions to move forward
- Regardless of the activity you will be doing, explain clearly how the activity look like and the outcome your client will get
- If you are seeking feedback, make it clear what type of feedback you are looking for
- Make sure that you give enough time for receiving feedback, and integrating feedback
- Explain what will be the consequences of not giving the right feedback or not giving feedback at all
- Never leave a meeting not recapping who will be doing what
- Finally, learn how to have an iron fist in a velvet glove.
In your career you will find different types clients or stakeholders, your goal is to first understand how they see the world. Your second goal is to understand what can possibly go wrong and prevent issues before they happen.
Client management requires experience and some practitioners are better at it than others, good client management is one key aspect of a being a good practitioner.
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