Client Management – The Parenting Way

This week has been a tough one.  Penny has been sick, nothing serious I might add, but a sick two year old is hard work no matter what the illness. Aside from feeling a fundamental lack of inspiration that comes with sleep deprivation, I have had to meet a high list of demands to get her to complete basic functions like sleeping and eating.

Poorly Penny looking after Minnie
Poorly Penny looking after Minnie

After several days of running around, chasing down lost teddies and bribing Penny to take her medicine I started to think about how dealing with a sick toddler can be similar to managing a difficult client.

I know that I’ve already written a post on the PR lessons you can learn from a toddler, however,  this list expands on some of the topics I touched on in my previous post and incorporates some of the things I’ve learned since we set up our own agency.

1. Choose your battles

If you don’t agree with your client about a particular course of action, sometimes you have to just give in.  Even if you explain your standpoint to them, your client may not always understand or agree (no Penny, Minnie Mouse won’t fit in the tumble dryer).  You have to remember that you work for them, and if that’s what they want to do then sometimes you just have to let them (providing its not illegal or unethical, I’m sure if Minnie Mouse had a say in it she wouldn’t be pleased about being shoved in the dryer). If it works out then great, but if it doesn’t then they might be more likely to listen to you in the future.

2. Don’t be frightened to ask for clarification

Sometimes you can be given the vaguest set of instructions and have to decipher what on earth you’re supposed to be doing.  Today it was, “Where my boat?”. The fact that we don’t have a boat didn’t even enter my mind.  After several repetitions of “my boat, mammy!” I presented her with her Peppa Pig boat (it made sense to me, being the only boat in the house), only to be met with screams and tantrums.

The offending Peppa Pig boat.
The offending Peppa Pig boat.

Instead of asking for clearer instructions I guessed at what my ‘client’ wanted and ended up wasting my time and theirs.  Which leads onto my next item…..

3. Asking the right questions

It turns out that the boat Penny was referring to was, in fact, the washing basket.

Happy Penny in her boat.
Happy Penny in her boat.

I only managed to figure this out after extensive questioning.  Instead of asking “what boat?” over and over and not getting any answers, I changed my tack and my questioning technique.  “What do you do with your boat?” “Where did you have it last?” Which made me realise, if you still don’t have the answers you need to do your job, question around the subject until you have a better understanding.

4. Don’t set unrealistic expectations

I learned this lesson the hard way.  Penny likes to play dress up and pretend.  Sometimes she likes to dress like a fairy.

Penny as a fairy
Penny as a fairy

So, thinking I was playing along I started saying, “Wow, what a lovely fairy, are you up in the sky?”  It was then that she got very upset because even though I confirmed that she was indeed a fairy, she was unable to fly.  My point being, if you set unrealistic expectations then your client will undoubtedly be disappointed.

5. Enjoy the moments when you’re on the same page

A moment of smiles before the next problem arises.
A minute of smiles before the next problem arises.

In the brief 10 minutes that you and your client come to a mutual understanding, take advantage of it.  You might be in the rare situation where you get on with all of your clients and everything is rosy most of the time, but realistically, differing opinions and egos can get in the way.  When the calm comes after the storm take some time to enjoy the peace, you’re only 5 minutes away from the next tantrum.