Whether I'm providing services as a member of an internal team or acting as an external consultant, transforming a client's business, each role has provided a different challenge. But at the heart of each is the need to provide honest advice.
In the rest of this article I use the terms website designer and consultant interchangeably because both call for great communication.
You can read more about me and my challenges in the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Provision of advice
By drawing upon prior experience a good consultant will be able to see the potential challenges from a proposed course of action, flag any concerns, and address risks before they become issues (Risk vs Issue).
A good consultant will learn about the client's business challenges, the client themselves and the client's target customer in order to be able to plan a solution.
Sometimes the client will not have the resources to maintain a website and an infrequently updated shop window gives a bad impression. A client may want to "do" social media, linked it to their website, but have no social media strategy. Engaging in social media, is an overt commitment to continually engage with the world and failure to do so will result in a drop in confidence from a customer.
A good consultant or website designer will have an eye on the future and will aim to design a system to be future proofed and manageable within the constraints of the client. They will understand the business, what the current as well as future needs are, design a solution to address these needs and foresee (and avoid) problems. Simple!
Communication has always been key to my success. Through educating others about the design process and avoiding pitfalls by taking a particular course of action, I've been able to build trust. This trust is vital to any business consultant as it is this which allows both parties to open up, allowing feedback to be an enjoyable experience rather than a painful one.
This trust moves the relationship from a wary, consultant-client model to a payer-to-partner model, allowing ideas to flow from either side without ridicule.
The client is not the real customer
It may sound counter intuitive as the consultant tends to want to satisfy the paying customer but by understanding the client's business, it should be clear what the underlying need is. Once you understand this, you can then think about some "hows" such as:
- How to align the client's needs with those of the visitor
- How will the website be built
By now, it should be clear; servicing the client is really about servicing the end user, and is only something that is shaped by the client. Sometimes this means that the consultant needs to say "no". By good communication and the provision of good advice, it should be possible for a consultant to be able to steer a client, knowing that it is only by acting together in a true partnership that a better product can be built.