Client Relations: Building Your Technical Freedom
How to effectively handle different types of clients.
At Codecamp Cluj this past April, Adrian Vaiesu, QA Team Lead in our Cluj-Napoca Studio was one of seven Softvisioners to present at the event. Adrian led a talk focused on how to handle different types of clients, from the technical to the non-technical, from the laid back, to the micromanager. Read on to learn about the insights presented during Adrian’s talk and discover some real-life problems and solutions.
Defining the client types in a broad spectrum
There are some basic types of clients that are important to understand. The technical, non-technical, micro-manager, and macro-manager. Every combination of these has different characteristics, such as which is the hardest to please and which is the easiest. It is also important to consider how you go about gaining trust with each of them.
Technical and non-technical clients
The technical client is a client that has good technical knowledge and actually gets involved in coding/programming aspects of the job. The non-technical client is just the opposite, where he understands the basics of the work, but does not get into the details of the actual code or tests that are being performed.
The client micro-manager and macro-manager
The micro-manager is the type of person who wants to get involved in every single detail of his team – doing sprint planning, giving daily tasks individually, and switching priorities himself. This is in contrast to the macro-manager, who gives the team a general direction, or general priorities and expects the team to know how to plan for those.
Many of you may be aware of a well-established trust formula: trust = credibility + reliability + intimacy, divided by self-orientation.
- Credibility: How much trust can I have in you / How credible you are as a professional?
- Reliability: How much can I rely on you? Will you do what you say you will?
- Intimacy: The comfort level and security that I have with you in our relationship (how much personal or sensitive information can I disclose with you).
- Self-Orientation: Ego, me, myself & I. I act on my self-interest.
At Codecamp, we discussed ways we could achieve credibility, reliability and intimacy with our clients, which of course depends on the personality of the client.
To gain credibility with your client, you need to prove your technical knowledge and show that you actually can do what you say you can do. Quality is key. The more you are knowledgable with new technology and with the area you are working on, the more credible you will be.
For reliability, the best way is to go with the “underpromise and overdeliver” method. But, most importantly, always stay true to your word and the deadlines you give.
For intimacy, there is no winning solution. You need to pay attention to the client and be very receptive of the little things. If for example, the client mentions that they were late because his cat was sick, you can talk about a bit about the cat and pets in general to develop a relationship and rapport. Again, there is no formula for this, this differs from person to person, and for this, you need to have very good soft skills.
Self-orientation is a negative trait, and you need to cut it out as much as possible. Be client oriented.
Problems & Solutions
The participants at Codecamp discussed some issues they’ve battled with, and we all discussed how we would go about solving them. For instance, one participant discussed a very difficult client who did not want to give the team any freedom, and even worse, the local team lead was not willing to help solve this issue. This was demoralizing to the whole team.
The solution proposed was to escalate to upper management, on both the client side (Product Owners or even Engineering VP) and the local side (Line Manager, Product Manager, etc.).
When you experience issues on a day-to-day basis, take a moment to think about how to solve them in a way that’s very specific to the client and the issue at hand.