Is the client always right? Think twice
Khuu Hoang Nhat Minh s3360677
Rumour has it that to be successful in client management, you need to bear in mind ‘ the clients are always right’. However, if you have ever googled the quote, there are many results that point out that is not true. Some typical reasons include: the clients have irrational expectations; or they do not know what they really want or need (Kiisel 2012).
Figure 1. Proof of life (taken by author)
To explore this debatable topic, I have had a chance to meet Mr Hoàng Xuân Huy to discuss this question. Mr Huy is the current business manager of Lan Anh Music Center of Lan Anh Groups. He has gained extensive experience as a Client Manager during his nearly 10 years working with such big clients as Pepsi, Tân Hiệp Phát, P&G. Since the beginning of the creative industry in Vietnam,, the question ‘are the clients always right?’ has always been bothering every client manager. To take his stand on this issue, Mr Huy said that when the clients came to Lan Anh, they hate to talk to him the most. He’s probably the only client manager that dares to demand the clients to strictly follow a long list of rules. Some came and never came back. Those who did were never disappointed & kept coming back every time.
He said, ‘ It’s not arrogant. And you have to persuade the clients that these rules are for their own good. I have been there watching things happening on the stage. For example, many clients think the more audiences coming the better. But think again, if you, as an audience, join in a 5000 attendee event in an area only for 3000 people. Where can you stand? What do you think? And is this really good for the client’s reputation?’
‘You know your job, the clients don’t. So you need to give them a detailed list of risks that may ruin the client’s image and your image. Remember that they may just want to achieve a short-term goal and may not sympathize with you, so don’t forget to explain everything to them in a calm and friendly manner. They are not always right, but they pay,’ he added. This is also a practical idea for client managers to bear in mind when dealing with clients to successfully persuade them into believing in your ideas: explore the clients’ want & need, your capability to fulfill them, and diplomatically blend them together (Solomon 2008).
To illustrate his point, he told a story about client X, a regular client who came to Lan Anh for their service every year (the name is suggested not to be revealed by interviewee). However, in 2006, they came to Lan Anh only one week before they wanted the campaign to run and with only two third of the budget they had given the year before. According to Newell & Grashina (2003), the project management triangle suggests that although the clients always want a high quality project done in a short period of time with low budget, we can only choose to fulfill two of them and sacrifice the last one. In this real life situation, Lan Anh was not provided with neither time nor sufficient money; therefore, it was virtually impossible for them to create an onstage event that guaranteed the audience’s safety let alone making it attractive and elegant.
‘That was a hard case since they were our loyal clients. We had to carefully explain to them and say ‘no’ in a way that we won’t severely damage the relationship between us.’
‘It is sad and disappointing. They hired another company to do it for them and they accepted. And it was not really a success,’ he concluded.
Figure 2. What to remember from this article (Thought Joy n.d.)
What client managers should take from this article?
- The clients are not always right.
- Explain to them carefully and sincerely why they are not.
- Learn to say ‘no’ properly to maintain the image of yours and your clients’.
- Remember, the clients are not always right.
Word Count: 662
Kiisel, T 2012, ‘3 reasons why customer isn’t always right’, Forbes, viewed 10 January 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/tykiisel/2012/09/25/3-reasons-why-the-customer-isnt-always-right/>.
Newell, M & Grashina, M 2003, The Project Management Question and Answer Book, AMACOM, NY.
Solomon, R 2008, The Art of Client Service, Kaplan Publishing, Bershire.
Thought Joy n.d., ‘Enzo Ferrari’, image, ThoughtJoy, n.d., viewed 10 January 2014, < https://s3.amazonaws.com/thoughtjoy/quotes/74118.png >.