Let’s consider this scenario. You’ve lined up several clients in one industry. You’ve done a considerable amount of repeat work for some of them – all without question or any concerns on the part of each client. Now, you’re negotiating work with a new client and they see from your website that you have worked with or are currently working with one of their competitors. They express concern. How do you deal with this?
You can’t really say, “Don’t worry.” If they are mentioning it to you, then they are concerned enough for you to care. And if the customer is concerned then you must also be concerned. Never brush off customer concerns easily – it can lead to customer frustrations and concerns with your overall ability to handle the engagement. Your goal – at all times during the engagement – should be to keep customer satisfaction high.
I’ve personally had this come up in two different types of work that I do. It happened to two years ago when I was implementing the same software solution for two different organizations in the airline industry. And it happened to me again two weeks ago concerning my writing of professional articles for two competing software companies. I’ll discuss how I handled both situations…
As I mentioned, my first example concerns two competing organizations in the airline industry. I had recently completed a customized software implementation for one airline and I was in the process of preparing myself and my team for a new project kickoff with a competing airline when the issue was raised by the new client.
Since both of these were long term engagements worth tens of thousands of dollars with the potential for future business, it was critical that I handle this concern carefully. There was no way I was going to take it lightly nor was I going to do anything to give my new client the impression that their concern was odd. What I wanted to do – what I knew I must do is convince them politely that their concern was invalid. That there was nothing to worry about.
I sat down with the new client and documented their concerns one by one. There were only 4 or 5 concerns that they had overall – most were related to some of the proprietary ways they do things in the airline industry and how certain calculations are derived (yes, these were very relevant to the software solution I was implementing). In the end, it took two things – signing an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), of course (this is something I actually then later went back and signed with the original client I had previously worked with so that I was covered on both sides) and it also took just getting to know this new client better. Once we discussed this situation, how we were going to customize the product, how I was going to manage the engagement, and how their processes were fairly similar across the industry based on my general knowledge I had acquired, they were much more comfortable with me, the project, and the information we were working with.
In my second situation I was writing professional articles for one software organization and had been doing this for several months. I discussed doing the same with a competitor. Understand that the articles were more expert content related to the industry rather than specific content about either vendor’s software offering. The potential new client became concerned that I was also writing directly for one of their competitors and were hesitant to move forward with a working relationship. We discussed the content of the articles, confirmed the understanding that there was no conflict of interest involved due to the content of the material, and established the understanding that recognition of articles with my name associated with them might only serve to help the recognition of their software product even when it appears on another site. Their concerns were soon alleviated and we were able to move forward with a working agreement.