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Give your customers the chance to say ‘no’

Guess what? Customers are human beings. Actually, if you’re in any way choosy with the projects you work with, your customers are probably nice enough human beings.

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We’ve all worked with people who say ‘no’ to nearly everything. Bosses who appear at the end of a process only to say they don’t like the result. People who see problems everywhere. Customers who change their minds every second meeting. Because these situations affect our work, we’ve learnt to prevent and manage them. We know that we need to make sure that decision makers are involved in the process, we need to back up decisions with arguments, etc.

So basically there are people who find it very easy to say ‘no’, and ‘but’, and we kind of know how to deal with them. But other people find it extremely difficult.

Some customers feel uncomfortable to admit that they don’t like the result of someone else’s hard work. So they don’t say it. Or they say it way later than they should have.

No matter how enthusiastic you are about your work, you’ve to give your customer a nice way out in case they don’t like it. You’ve to let them say ‘no’ in a comfortable, constructive way. You need to let them know that it’s fine to say ‘no’, and ‘but’, and ‘I’m not sure’. It‘s part of the process. It’s part of the progress.

Getting an honest reaction from the customer is easier if you don’t ask for a definite answer the same day you present your work. Let them digest it. Let them think and talk about it when you’re not there. Things can be discussed in front of you, but still, tell them to think about it for a couple of days, and then give a definite answer.

I’ve been doing this with web projects at different levels and it’s worked out well. It gives the customer confidence and a sense of real control. It’s a nice way to work.

But I’ve also experienced the opposite. I’ve seen people presenting their work with such enthusiasm that the customer felt they couldn’t really say ‘no’. At least not right there, right then. A few days later, when the truth is said, problems of all sorts arise.

Remember: customers can actually be very nice people. They might find it hard to say they’re not convinced with your work. Not only this: they might be right in not being happy with your work! Encourage them to tell the truth, and listen carefully.

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