This week we have to write another blog post about ‘How do you end a client relationship’?
How you end a client relationship obviously depends on how the whole assignment turned out. The broad spectrum of outcomes runs from the negative outcome of the project was a disaster with major problems and the consulting work did not result in a success, to the positive outcome that the whole experience was great and everything was finished as planned. One question to ask first is do you really want to end a client relationship? Of course the current assignment is over right now, but that does not necessarily mean that the entire relationship has to end here. You could still stay in touch with the client, and there is always the possibility that there might be another assignment coming up in a few months.
In this post I will focus on how you end your assignment rather than the business relationship since I believe the business relationship should not be ended. Admittedly there are some cases where you don’t want to work with this client again and really want to end the relationship. But I think even in this situation you should treat the client with respect and try to maintain a positive ending.
It is obvious that coming to an end of a successful assignment is easier than an unsuccessful one, since both sides got what they wanted and are satisfied. So what do you do if not everything works out as planned? After all you represent the consulting communication and just because this assignment didn’t work there is no need for bad feelings or hostility. Your goal should be that your client trusts you, and respects your company even if you did not succeed in the task at hand. Acknowledge the mistakes you made and do not blame the client. It does not help you or your company to make your client your enemy. Ultimately, trust is what brings the client back to you even after an unsuccessful assignment.
There are many different ways to earn trust but it most often boils down to two parts: Competence and Character. If you have both the client will trust you. In the situation of an unsuccesseful project, it seems like that you did not have the necessary competence to complete the assignment. But what if you get to the point that the client thinks, if you can not do it no one else can do it. In this scenario you still would have proofed competence even without succeeding in this assignment. (By that I do not mean that you should minimize a bad situation, or lie to the client about the project outcome). The second part is character which can be demonstrated especially in an uneasy task. Take responsibility for things which do not go smooth and stay professional.
A good way to prove competence and character at the end of an assignment is to give your client your final suggestion. Even if it does not benefit you anymore (character), just leave your final thoughts on the project behind which can turn the project around (competence).
Comments or additional thoughts on that topic are encouraged!