Over my dozen years in this business I’ve realized that there are certain “types” of clients. By figuring out how to work best with them, you can find a happy union. Of course not all people fall into a specific category, but there are many that do. Here’s what I mean:
The Description: This client will throw some digs your way. If you were off the previous day, they’ll criticize you. If you did not call them back immediately, they’ll give you a hard time. They’re tough to deal with, yet they tend to be fair and respect you if you're doing your job.
Best Approach: Hold strong, but don’t get defensive. I have found that standing firm with this client type works best. Tell them you’re there to take care of issues that arise and that you have your best people on the job (then make sure it’s true). I have found that once you win this client over (although it will be hard to tell), they will not balk at price, but first you’ll have to prove yourself worthy.
The Description: This person will tell you how great everything is. They’ll order a pizza for the installers (just had a client stock a fridge with water, and Red Bull for a three-day install project), while telling you how excited they are and how much they trust you. You will find yourself not wanting to let this client down.
Best Approach: Keep their trust and be honest. Staying on the good side of this client is a very good thing. Crossing this client is not. There is nothing better than working as a partner instead of working “under” someone. Make sure they know you’re on top of the project and then stay on top of it. You want them to continue singing your praises to their friends after you’ve finished the gig.
The Invisible Man
The Description: You’ll meet with this person early on, or not. After that, emails will be short and cryptic, phone calls will be rare, and face-to-face time will be virtually nonexistent. You will not hear about an issue with the install until it has become a real problem, and you'll never be totally sure where you stand with them.
Best Approach: The hardest part about this client is knowing what they’re thinking. You’ll think things are going along swimmingly only to find out later that they are unhappy. You’ll compose a long email about a product that would be a perfect solution and get back a meager “ok,” without further information. I have found if you can pin this client down for a face-to-face meeting, life moves forward more smoothly. Too much time without contact can lead to issues. Track them down. Let them know you’re on their side.
The Lady of the House
The Description: This is a project where you never meet the husband. The lady of the house is in charge of all things audio video related, and this is her realm. She tends not to care about the specifications of the equipment but the experience.
Best Approach: I have found that the lady of the house is wonderful to work with (maybe because I am also female). She does not want to know about fancy jargon and crazy specs. She desires a simple, easy-to-use system that looks and sounds great. Give her a “play music” button and a “watch TV,” and she is good to go!
The Description: This client type does not pay on time and likes to yell. His favorite phrases include, “you people… “(enter angry claim here).
Best Approach: Stay away from this client. They are not good for your soul, your bottom line, or your digestive system. Walk away.
The Description: This client will question your decisions at every step. If you win them over, then you’re their expert for life (but they’ll still ask questions). If you do not, then they’ll begin to seek answers somewhere else, which is good for no one.
Best Approach: You have to prove your worth (show your wall of awards, walk over hot coals). They must be won over early to avoid questioning during the entire installation of the solution that you have chosen. You will have to provide more then specs to this client; you will have to give them fundamental reasons for selling what you sell.
The Description: This client is desperate for you to come out to fix his AV. They’ll fill you with tales of distress of how the world may end if their kids cannot watch Netflix, or play their video games. They do not know how they will survive without this precious thing called air… I mean TV. Sentences begin with, “Isn’t there anything you can do?” Sometimes they’ll even offer to pay more to have someone there after-hours.
Best Approach: Tell them to play with their kids or read a book. I’m kidding. Mostly. The client type needs to know that you’re in their corner and that you’re exhausting all avenues to fix their problem. They need to hear that you’re fitting them in and rearranging your schedule for them. Just make sure you do not turn them into Mr. Angry (see above).
Again, not every client will fall into a specific type. These are (usually) good people that desire a system or product. However, by figuring out the person that your client is, you’ll better be able to serve them and create a long-lasting relationship with them.
Have another “type” I missed? Please tell me in the comments section below.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.