Author Seth Godin recently wrote a blog post about what it means to set boundaries in business. He calls it Avoiding the custom bully.
While we all want to provide the best service possibly to our customers, we must keep in mind that promising what the rules are is far more useful than promising perfect. No one can promise perfect — perfect doesn’t exist. What we can promise is time, commitment, effort and a bare minimum result. But in order to make sure that both parties are satisfied this promise can only be fulfilled if boundaries are set.
As Godin writes, “Boundaries eliminate the temptation to bully. State them early and often and don’t alter them and believe it or not, the client will be happier as well. They didn’t sign up to ruin your life. They signed up to get the most they could from you and your team, and the limits are the limits.”
So how do you do this? Here are five ways to set boundaries and keep clients happy.
1. Take Godin’s advice and set the boundaries early. Outline what you need from the client, how your process works, and repeat their needs and requests back to them.
2. Put “the rules” in writing. Having something down on paper or online in a document/email is a useful tool to refer back to should the need arise.
3. Stick with the plan. Manage their expectations and fulfill requirements as agreed upon. Should there become a need for adjustments, repeat the above steps.
4. Say it with smile. Sense a conflict coming on? Smile. Physically put a smile on your face before firing off a reply to a bullying email. You’ll find you might want to laugh it off and take the high road.
5. Remember, a client isn’t trying to ruin your life. There’s a reason they want the maximum they can from you because they believe you’re the best. After all, isn’t that why they hired you in the first place?
I’ve always said that I’ll do (almost) anything for a client, but there’s a fine line between commitment, time, effort….and selling your soul. Know the difference.