Building the Consultant-Client Relationship

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As consultants we are tasked with helping clients improve their current processes. Whether it be migrating to the cloud, SKU optimization or a Machine learning solution every project has to have an initial meeting. Beyond the general questions that you need to know to start work you also need to understand the customer, build rapport and establish the dynamics of your partnership. Here are the key components in the customer client relationship that lead to successful engagements.

Build a Mutual understanding and Respect:
Make sure your internal help knows that you are invested in them as well as the project. Subject matter experts will be important when challenges arise in the future, having built the relationships in the beginning will help you substantially down the road. Always ask questions and don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know all the answers. You aren’t expected to know the client’s business as well as they do and oftentimes it’s better and earns more respect in the long run to stop the conversation and clarify what is being said. Clarity is often an issue in these engagements since terminology often varies from company to company and misunderstandings can lead to expensive and time consuming issues.

Understanding current processes:
One of the most underestimated parts of our job as a consultant is gaining a comprehensive knowledge of what the client is currently doing. As a consultant making assumptions will cause problems, in order to avoid this, develop an understanding of not only the problems you were hired to address; but also aspects of their business that are separate. Ask as many questions as you can, show a genuine interest and most of the time people will be happy to answer, moreover these questions can sometimes lead to new opportunities as you grow to understand the client’s needs and the client gains an understanding of your capabilities.

Project Direction and Possible Issues:
Transparency is key to keeping a project successful. Laying out the direction the project is headed gives stakeholders the chance to help answer questions that might have been addressed in the initial scope. Raising issues before they are become major problems allows the project to move more smoothly. Most of the time the client will understand that projects and plans change based on circumstances but lack of communication does not allow the client to experience a gradual change of expectations; this can lead irritation and disappointment as their expectations are shattered. So long as the client is not surprised by changes to the project, they will be much more willing to accept changes of expectations.