A Reader Writes:
I am a solutions architect in a large IT department for a global financial firm. When I work with internal clients, I try to engage them in conversation to find out what problem they are looking to solve. Despite my consultative approach, some of these clients will tell me to create a customized solution – something I know that they don’t need and wont solve the problem. Their response to my concerns is “Just do it”. I feel like an order taker and not being used to my client’s best advantage. How should I handle these clients?
The Navigator has received several questions of this nature so he will respond to all of them here. This issue seems to be more prevalent in the support functions of mid- to large size organizations (IT, HR, Finance, Legal) whose goal is to support the business. The Navigator understands this dilemma, as he too is faced with clients who are not interested in partnering strategically. An extreme way of looking at it from the client’s point of view (the Navigator enjoys thinking in extremes because it can bring the matter into sharp focus) might be like this: The client places an order through Seamless to get some food, but a text message pops up on the client’s phone asking her, “Do you really need those tacos? What outcomes are you looking for?” You can imagine the customer feeling that the order taker does not know their place – just do it!
The solution here, and one which will become a topic on the Clever Corporate Navigator site in the future, is to set expectations up front in the contracting phase of the relationship. Two rhetorical question for you: Does your department in your organization promote a consultative model of dealing with internal clients? Does your manager support this model? Let’s assume yes to both questions and despite this you still have your taco demanding client. It can be helpful to challenge a client in a clever, disarming way, that could engage them into a discussion with you. Here are some suggestions:
- “I’m happy to do that for you. Have you considered that it seems to contradict the project that team A is working on?”
- “I can see why you think that this idea will be effective. Whose budget will this go under?”
- “I’m happy to do that for you in the next quarter as we are currently working on xyz. In the meantime, you might consider doing method abc”
- “That could be effective, I’ve also heard of several other ways of addressing that issue as well”
- “Yes, I can do that. In order for me to start the process, I need certain inputs from you such as (pick any number of things such as a measurable outcomes, budget estimates, RFIs)”
You probably see where the Navigator is going with these suggestions. These are ways to get someone to stop and think that their request might be improved upon, is risky, will adversely impact their budget, is redundant, is contradictory” etc.
Now that our business is concluded, the Navigator would like to order some nachos, but go light on the cheese.