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Relationship with clients

The relationship between professional and client, between misunderstandings and cultural lacks

Many professionals and agencies in the world of web, still today, think that “Client is always right”.
The trouble is that the client himself, just because of this boorish cultural deviation, seriously thinks always to be right.
If it was so, then architects could build houses without roofs, doctors could transplant kidneys instead of livers, engineers could design cars without steering wheels, accountants could defraud treasury, all just because “it is the client who requests it, and clients are always right“.

Even if, luckily, the world is not like that, it is from here that we make an observation to whoever works as professional in the web field: are these instances clearly out of the world for all professional categories except ours?

The client does not recognize the authority of the professional

The professionals of this sector, as all others, have specific competences resulting from years of studies, researches, training and updates, and I am not speaking of the competences necessary to create a simple showcase website, made of just one html page, with some images and rich text.
Being able to design a software system is not different from being able to design a house.

Being able to design and plan the creation of a website, its contents, the layout, considering the User Experience, the Performances, the SEO and the following promotional marketing plan, is not so much different from being able to furnish an apartment or draft a corporate balance sheet.

The client, often, does not understand this specificity and connects the creation of a website, management software or an e-commerce to the figure of a provincial “computer geek”.

This difference of opinions is, essentially, due to a cultural problem. The client, indeed, despite being brutally ignorant on the subject, claims to know all aspects and thinks to take the place of the professional in scheduling times and implementation costs of each idea, seriously thinking that his estimate corresponds to reality. It is not so, it is not so at all.
Just think that also for professionals, in many cases, it is almost impossible to estimate times and costs to realize a project in the initial stages. For anyone who doesn’t believe in such assumption, is enough to surf the net or read part of literature, even the latest, linked to project managing in the field of web/software where, moreover, is easy to understand how many and which can be the countless risk factors in the implementation of web/software solutions.

The client does not recognize the economic value of the project and of whom will have to look after it

If a client asks for the creation of a complex website or an e-commerce demanding to pay it a max of 400 € just because a colleague, friend, relative or whoever told him that these are the right prices or that the computer geek who lives in the next building works for those prices, then the client himself is requested not to further disturb who works with professionalism, entrusting those who work at such ridiculous prices, if they exist, with the implementation of his website.

If you don’t have the desire or economic means to bear the efforts that the professional unquestionably sets in the planning stage, you’d better give up the temptation to avail yourself of his collaboration.

Try to contact an architect or engineer and ask him to design your new house for one hundred Euros. Can you imagine his reaction, can’t you? 

Well, and then do not expect a different treatment from us.

Whoever has a business or works as professional has initially faced some costs: purchase or lease of a real estate, purchase of office equipment, shelves, showcases, costs for other professionals as plumbers, electricians, engineers, etc..

Even if unwillingly, we must pay such costs and we usually do that unflinchingly.

When, however, you need a website, an e-commerce or management software, things are different. In that case, indeed, the client is sure to negotiate, ask for discounts, impose his times and costs.
For what reason a client is willing to spend 70.000 € for a car, 20.000 € for office furniture, or 10.000 € for shelves or design glass showcases and then categorically refuses to invest 5 or 10 thousand Euros for an e-commerce that will surely bring more profits than a walnut desk or a leather armchair?!
For what reason moreover, a plumber, electrician or painter can ask between 25€ and 50€ / hour for their services, and a web designer, a developer, maybe who holds a degree top of his class, has to work for less than 20€/hour?
As mentioned above, there is a “cultural” problem. Let’s try to understand the meaning.

Clients are already used to the competition by “computer geeks“ who, maybe under the table, are paid few hundreds of Euros for bad works.
They offer beautiful graphics, eye-catching design, maybe downloaded somewhere. The client is happy, as for him graphics is what makes the difference, the other stuff doesn’t matter.
When after some months results will not come in terms of visits, contacts and profits, the client, technically uninformed and therefore not able to appreciate in its entirety the quality of the work done by the computer geek, will draw his conclusions: it is not the computer geek’s fault, least of all of his little investment on the project in economic and personal terms but it will be, as always, the internet’s fault!

Yes, you got it right. In the client’s opinion, the fault must be attributed to the net or to some of his friends, who convinced him that having a website or an e-commerce brings benefits, when instead, according to his actual experience, it is not so: “I have a website and also an e-commerce, but I haven’t earned anything…” ergo “…internet doesn’t work!!“.
Why do we come to this issue? For two reasons:

  • The client is not culturally trained
  • The supplier is incompetent, dishonest or unable

The second statement is simple to understand, the first a little less. What does “culturally train”the client mean? Should we take courses whenever we make an estimate? Obviously not.

To understand the concept, an example is enough: when you buy a car you are already “culturally trained” (or you should be). Before buying it, indeed, you will ask about a series of parameters:

  • Safety devices
  • Engine size
  • Consumption
  • Max speed
  • Acceleration
  • Type of gearbox
  • Warranties
  • Technical support
  • Opinion of other buyers

So, we are all more or less able to understand, before making a purchase, which are the features of a car, compared to another one, and therefore we perfectly know what we are up against, for instance, paying less than we might.

In the web, unfortunately, such kind of evaluation is much more difficult.
Which clients indeed are able to evaluate the quality of a supplier? Very few, as few are those who know the “parameters” that make a professional a good professional.

SEO, SEM, User Experience, Copywriting, Project Managing … these concepts are far from those known in the world of cars (engine size, speed etc..).
Which is therefore the solution to this cultural problem? By now, unfortunately, there isn’t. Time itself will dictate the client’s cultural training, underlining the concepts mentioned above, to date unfortunately unknown to most people, and creating a “natural selection” among the many suppliers today on the market.

In the meantime, however, at Studio XS we easily face such set of problems, simplifying life to ourselves and to our clients.

Accept only interesting projects and respectful clients

When we have to face clients who answer “it is too expensive”, “this thing is unnecessary in our opinion”, “we can make this by ourselves”, “maybe we will talk about it later“,“I need it now and it must be cheap”, our answer should always be the same: “thanks but we are not suited to you.

In these, like many other cases, the professional should renounce the project. The client, indeed, in this case, denotes a total lack of interest in investing and believing in the project itself, as well as a strong inclination to believe he is the one who dictates times, costs and solutions. This abuse of power is at the root of the failure of every kind of collaboration.

Give up a project is always something difficult, both in economic and professional terms, but when the working conditions are below the “minimum wage” then we should get out of it, avoiding troubles and future problems.
A client who is disrespectful since the initial stages, is someone who does not put any confidence in the professional’s evaluations and solutions. In these cases we should work less and better.

Clients and Supplier: two clearly distinct roles

Finally, we should take stock of the roles inside the project.

The client’s role is quite easy: to express ideas and needs, before and during the development of the project itself, being an active and highly collaborative part, with the sacred right to accept or refuse a proposal or a quotation.
All the rest is exclusive competence of the supplier: from the analysis of the project times and costs, to the feasibility or ideation of technical, stylistic, graphic and promotional solutions.
Critical to the success of a project or of any collaboration is the clear, extreme and rigid distinction between the role of the Client and the role of the Supplier.
Neither, for any reason, must override the other’s“territory”.

Tags: client, supplier, relationship, competences