Friday, 2 August 2013

Client Relationship Management and iMedia in 2013

It was problematic to research this topic for today's blog. There seems to be a lot of confusion about customer relationship management (CRM) and client relationship management – that's without adding in interactive media.

So, to make sure we're starting from common ground, we're defining the client as the people who are paying you and the customer as the people who will be using your application. It seems that this differentiation is fundamental for our working environment when it might not be for others. Traditionally the Account Manager (in an agency environment) and the project manager (in the software development environment) have been the key people to interact with the clients and they have had to develop strategies to balance the needs of the clients against the development company's needs. This job has often been split in interactive companies between the initial contact with the client – often managers/directors – and then the nominal head of the development team as the project moves to definition and production. These roles can have many titles, of course.

But, what is clear is that clients need handling and that the people relating to them need the skills to do this. And it isn't easy! Any hints and tips should be gratefully received because this is a hard job and most needed once problems arise. Handling client expectations appears very often in job descriptions. What this means in practice is that clients' expectations are managed from the beginning whilst trust in your company is being developed. Then, as the project develops, continued relationship management practices are employed. We've found three different perspective on managing clients for you covering a variety of sector development in small businesses, agencies, and for freelance developers.

Small Business Canada has a refreshingly no-nonsense approach to this in its article, Your client is livid! 5 lessons for Client Relationship Management. They realise that communication is the key. They recommend:
  • talking to the client because non-verbal communication like email/texts does not allow the full gamut of interpretation
  • keeping the client informed of all progress – good and bad
  • offering solutions – if things are wrong how will they be put right, how long will it take and the cost implications if any.
  • don't over-promise. When your company falls short of its promises, the trust disappears and so will the client.
  • add value. Suggest ways that may help the client achieve extra from their applications.
Joseph Liu, in Rethinking the client-agency relationship (17th July 2013), is also candid about his experience with the creative agency approach to development.
I've found that you can be clear about what you want without mandating how it has to be done. That you can disagree without being disagreeable. That you can be clear about your expectations while also being collaborative so that when things do get bumpy, the relationship is strong enough to handle 100 per cent candour in both directions.
For freelancers handling clients, you might prefer to look at How to manage difficult clients, at freelance.uk

They cover the thorny issue of firing clients as well as six tips on more positive ways of managing the relationship.
Well, it's a large topic that should stand alone without being confused constantly with CRM. Its importance for your business speaks for itself!

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