A Tale of the Perfect Client

I have been reading a book off and on now for some time now entitled “Attracting Perfect Customers” by Stacey Hall & Jan Brogniez http://www.amazon.com/Attracting-Perfect-Customers-Strategic-Synchronicity/dp/1576751244. One of the things that the authors suggest is that you spend some time thinking about your “perfect customers”. Now first of all, I don’t have “customers” —- I have clients. But I decided to give it a whirl and the trite word “collaboration” came to mind. And then I immediately cringed because that word has been beaten to death don’t you think? We are told by everyone (it seems) that we have to collaborate, form partnerships, coalitions, work across the aisle…….yada yada yada.

In this blog I will;
1)     Define collaboration;
2)     Talk about how it relates to “perfect clients” and;
3)     Describe a recent experience with a pretty-close-to perfect client; and
4)     Pose two questions for you

What does the word “collaborate” mean anyway?

The word comes from Latin collaboratus, past participle of collaborare or to labor together.
I like that idea of laboring together. According to Webster’s online dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/collaborate the full definition of collaboration means:
1 to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor;
2 to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one’s country and especially an occupying force; and
3 to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected
 

What Makes a “Perfect Client?”

So back to the perfect client. For me a perfect client is one that sees the consulting-client relationship as a collaborative partnership. I always tell clients that they are the experts in their programs and I bring some expertise too (evaluation and research skills, data skills, etc.). Together we design an evaluative process that best meets their needs. It is not something we “do” to them. They are partners in the entire process from design through data interpretation and communicating results and putting them to use.

Hall & Brogniez describe the experience of the perfect client/customer connecting with the perfect consultant.  Personally, I have not experienced the synchronicity that Hall & Brogniez describe when I am in a position of being the detached consultant who takes a more authoritative approach. When clients view evaluation as something that is done to them rather than a process in which they participate, I find that they are more fearful, more defensive, less likely to use results, and more likely to be dissatisfied with the final report.

However, when we “labor together” with our clients, the whole experience is more gratifying for our team and the client. The evaluation process is fun for both of us the results are more likely to be used for program improvement, which after all is the most important thing (at least in my book).

 

My nearly positively perfect client 

OK, so I just saw Saving Mr. Banks (fabulous by the way!), so that phrase “positively perfect” comes to mind when I think about a recent client. We (I think they would agree) experienced the kind of synchronicity that Hall & Brogniez talk about in their book. What made them so perfect? Here are a few of the items that I came up with as I thought about this client as I completed one of the exercises in the book:

 

  1. They value and believe in evaluation.
  2. They work with us to answer questions and problem solve.
  3. They use evaluation results for program improvement.
  4. They are available for calls and meetings.
  5. They have a sense of humor.
  6. They are experts in their field and therefore we wanted to bring only our best to the table.
  7. They appreciate us.
  8. They say thank-you.
  9. They are pleasant.
  10. They have clarity of focus.
  11. They want us to be successful.
  12. They understand we have the organization’s best interest at heart.

 

Two questions for you 

Often when we meet with new clients we ask them to tell us about their “good, bad, and ugly” experiences with evaluation consultants. I find that many folks have had some pretty unpleasant experiences. Hall & Brogniez would say that in these cases, the client and consultants were not a perfect match.

So in closing I have two questions for you:

What makes you a perfect client? What do you look for in the perfect consultant?

Let me hear from you.

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