Just like all relationships, your client partnerships require boundaries. Everyone wants to go above and beyond for their clients, but it is necessary to have a clearly defined line so things do not become blurred and potentially problematic. We see too often businesses being taken advantage of out of fear of upsetting or losing a client but setting clear boundaries between you and your clients will create a healthy balance so that your team members can exceed expectations in a fair and logical manner. There are six ways we think you can accomplish this goal.
1. Respect Your Company’s Own Time
What are your business hours? Whatever they may be, it is important to only work within them. We understand that sometimes there are unavoidable things that must take place outside of those hours but those accommodations should be made only when absolutely necessary and unavoidable. If your client’s requests cause you to work outside your company’s allotted work hours, it may be time to change something. That may mean reevaluating your company hours, or even the partnerships you have in place. Remember you are in a partnership with this client, meaning you must find a time that works with both of your schedules.
2. Communicate Expectations Immediately and Uphold Them Regularly
When you begin the partnership with your client, explain your company’s expectations immediately. Layout exactly what work you will be doing, your work schedule, the manner in which tasks will be completed, and the communication preferences of not only your team but also your client. Ask the client what their expectations are and agree upon a fair plan of action. Uphold your end of the deal always, and do not hesitate to remind clients of the agreed-upon terms if requests become problematic.
3. Remain in Equal Control
Since this is a partnership, the control of the relationship should never be one-sided. You are in collaboration, meaning there should be a professional level of control from both parties. If you feel the client is attempting to pull the reins, whether they realize it or not, be calm and assertive in communicating this concern. Give your client a firm reminder of your role in this partnership, and the boundaries you both agreed to.
4. Use Effective Communication
Communication is essential, and you should keep your clients up to date at all steps of the project. Be sure to answer their questions and be as clear as possible. If this is not a strong suit for you we suggest using communication software that can help keep confusion at bay.
5. Don’t Be Scared To Use The Word “No”
No is a complete sentence. Pushing back on client requests can be extremely difficult to do and of course, you want to try and find ways to accommodate your client’s requests. But if there comes a point where you have tried everything for a client, and nothing seems to satisfy their requests, it may be time to say no. If the request will require too much time or energy, and/or does not fall within the agreed-upon terms and services, saying no is a must and a completely reasonable response. It is also vital to say no to inappropriate or personal requests or conversations, this is a professional partnership first and foremost and that needs to take precedence. Push back in a respectful manner, and perhaps suggest a smaller solution that does fall under your services and agreed-upon expectations.
6. Say Goodbye To Guilt
Once you have laid out and agreed upon your partnership boundaries, there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty for professionally pushing back or saying no. If a client is attempting to manipulate or change your set boundaries, the partnership just may not be a great fit. Hold you and your company to a certain standard, and ensure you only work with clients that align with you and your team.
Overall, keep in mind that the term “boundaries” is not a dirty word. Boundaries are simply a healthy way to communicate expectations and create a standard for your team. Boundaries are necessary for both professional and personal relationships; they will establish you as a leader/team member/person in general. Setting up guidelines from the start will preserve your partnerships and lay the foundation for a positive future.