Should I Be Polite To My Clients?

Be Polite But Talk Straight

Like any other consultant or coach, I tend to be polite to my clients. I read a great interview with Gerry McGovern this morning that made me question my behaviour. Gerry McGovern is associated with UIE, which is short for User Interface Engineering. That’s Jared Spool‘s company that deals with Usability or the science of how to make websites that work for their visitors.

Back to the flash of insight that Mr. McGovern’s remarks created. I too am a strong proponent of the customer-centric approach. I often suggest to my clients that I can act as a mirror for them. I can play back to them how a typical customer will react to their website. There is much good content in the interview but here are the words that stopped me in my tracks. They are words of advice to a corporation:

Stop thinking that they?re the center of the universe, and that any sane human being will be interested in reading their press releases and all the other self-congratulatory waffle they publish. Start thinking about how they can create a website that can serve their customers better. …

Being customer focused is not some ?nice thing to do.? Customer focus is about hard-edged business. Customers are hugely impatient on the Web. They don?t need to hang around a website that is not directly focused on them. Customer focus is the beginning, middle and end of a successful web strategy.

I try to be diplomatic in talking to my customers. After all, Help is defined by the recipient, as the late Peter Drucker said. If I rub them the wrong way, then they will disregard what I am saying to them. But often their prospective customer would be very much ruder, if they even bothered to talk to them at all.

There’s the dilemma. I guess the ideal solution for a consultant is a client that says, “I don’t want any sugar-coating of the pill. I want you to tell me what a real prospect would think of this.” The irony is that I would then be apparently ruder to this ideal client than I am to my regular clients. Oh, decisions, decisions ..

Related: Winning Marketing Plans Are Customer-Centric
Six Wise Words From Peter Drucker

Tags: customer-centric